GSA releases telework guidelines

In a continuing effort to promote teleworking, the General Services Administration released new guidelines for agencies as they oversee off-site work.

In a Federal Register notice issued Friday, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy advised agencies to efficiently and effectively use IT and communications to better comply with teleworking laws.

Under the new guidelines, agencies now are permitted to provide employees with supplies for teleworking such as computers, printers, copy machines, scanners and fax machines. In addition, agencies can let teleworkers use 'alternative worksite equipment and associated technical support for continuity of operations.' Agencies also can lend teleworkers IT equipment that departments have replaced as a part of their refresh cycle.

Agencies also can use appropriated funds to provide teleworkers with telephone and Internet lines, as well as installation costs, equipment costs, usage fees and service charges for connectivity. Agencies can allow teleworkers access to secure information, such as schedules, budget analyses and other systems as necessitated by specific tasks.

In addition, GSA said teleworkers 'should receive adequate training on the use of IT systems and applications needed for effective job performance,' which includes security training. Agencies also should provide 'adequate and effective help desk support for teleworkers' and require help desk personnel to know how to address remote access hardware and software issues.

Congress passed a law requiring agencies to allow eligible employees to telework in 2000, but according to a 2005 survey by the Office of Personnel Management, only 19 percent of eligible employees telework.

GSA also has promoted teleworking in recent years, but has met little success. In its latest promotion attempt at the end of January, the agency offered to let managers, supervisors and senior executives sample teleworking at any of the 14 GSA-sponsored centers for free through Sept. 30.

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