Federal managers reluctant to send employees home to work

Federal managers reluctant to send employees home to work

The government has fallen far short of its mandated goal of letting a quarter of the eligible work force telecommute, and inflexible managers are to blame, a House panel heard yesterday.

'In a nutshell, the biggest challenge to telecommuting programs in both the private and public sectors is management's concern regarding the effect on the organization,' said Robert E. Robertson, director of education, work force and income security issues at the General Accounting Office.

Robertson was among those who testified before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy. The topic was federal compliance with last year's Transportation Department appropriations bill, which required agencies to let at least 25 percent of their eligible employees work from home or other remote sites by April, and an additional 25 percent in each of the next three years. The law does not require that the workers telecommute, only that they have the chance to do so.

Teresa M. Jenkins, director of the office of Workforce Relations at the Office of Personnel Management, said a study this spring showed only 2.6 percent of federal workers were telecommuting at least one day a week, most of them at the General Services Administration. Jenkins said the figure probably is an undercount, because agencies have no reliable way of tracking the numbers.

The telework initiative was intended to ease traffic congestion. But Mark Straton, president of global marketing of the Siemens Enterprise Network Services division of Siemens AG of Munich, said telecommuting also has cut costs, increased productivity, and improved recruiting and retention at his company.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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