Will execs buy in to telework?

'This one document puts all relevant telework information in one place for decision-makers to use.'

'Commerce's Fran Corcoran White

Susan Whitney

The Office of Personnel Management wants to address managers' resistance to telework with tools and educational seminars to help executives plan, implement and run telecommuting programs.

Although OPM and agencies have made headway over the last two years in implementing telework, executive opposition has remained the most constant obstacle to meeting the statutory goal of offering every eligible federal employee the opportunity to telecommute by fiscal 2004.

'We are trying to change the hearts and minds of managers,' said Bonnie Storm, OPM's work life group manager in the Strategic Human Resources Policy office. 'Managers are the area we can affect most easily.'

OPM recently issued a telework guide aimed at managers, which started this latest effort to reach this audience. To read the guide online, go to www.gcn.com, and enter 120 in the GCN.com/search box.

The guide follows OPM's latest report on agency telework progress, which found that about 5 percent of all federal workers telecommute and that management resistance remains a significant barrier. It was the top barrier for two of the last three surveys. Only this year, information security replaced managerial resistance as the largest obstacle, OPM found.

'Managers and supervisors who aggressively encourage the use of telework for the right employees and the right situations will contribute to the overall performance of the federal government,' said Kay Coles James, OPM's director. 'This publication provides guidance to managers and supervisors to assist them in those tasks.'

OPM also will hold training sessions with agency human capital officers and telework coordinators this summer. It is working on a video and other materials to help managers promote their agencies' telework programs.

The guide advises managers to form telework planning committees composed of human resources, employee relations, labor relations, IT, management and other agency officials. It also recommends establishing written telecommuting policies for program objectives, processes to telework, types of teleworking arrangements and a description of the benefits.

'We spelled out the types of telework because we felt agencies did not have a clear understanding of what it means,' Storm said.

The guide recommends establishing a training plan and a way to evaluate the productivity, operating costs, employee morale and the recruitment and retention of teleworkers. It also gives agencies best practices to determine if an employee is a candidate to telecommute and how to measure a teleworker's performance.

OPM included a sample telework assessment checklist, telework agreement document and supervisor's evaluation form.

'We wanted to give managers a concrete tool to start out with for appraisals rather than creating something that is subjective,' Storm said.

Fran Corcoran White, the Commerce Department's program manager for employee and labor relations, and the agency's telework coordinator, said the guide addresses managers and executives on a critical level.

'This one document puts all relevant telework information in one place for decision-makers to use,' White said.

Commerce issued its formal telework policy in January, but some of its bureaus, such as the Patent and Trademark Office, have piloted telecommuting programs successfully. White said the guidance would help managers who have conducted a test program continue it on a permanent basis. She said the long-term benefits of the guidance are to give managers a clearer picture of how telework can benefit an agency's mission.

'There is a change in mind-set about the benefits of telework,' White said. 'This is another tool to help managers make better decisions.'

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