More feds will telework under new law

Telework Improvements Act gets thumbs up on second vote

Teleworkers of the world rejoice! House lawmakers have passed a bill to expand the number of federal employees eligible to telework.

The Telework Improvements Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) requires every federal agency to designate a telework managing officer as a liaison between supervisors, managers and employees, and ensure that employees are notified about grievance procedures for telework disputes. The bill would also make telework a central part of federal agencies’ plans for dealing with natural or manmade emergencies.

According to the office of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), a cosponsor of the bill, the legislation would:

  • Instruct the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a uniform, governmentwide telework policy for federal employees and require that office to gather governmentwide data on federal telecommuting.
  • Provide telework training and education to both employees and supervisors.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to evaluate agency compliance; to be compliant, agency employees authorized to telework would have to be permitted to do so for at least 20 percent of the hours worked during every two administrative workweeks.

“I believe this legislation is necessary so that a formal telework policy can be enacted across the federal government and sustained into future administrations,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

Related stories:

Are qualified feds being denied teleworking opportunities?

Telework remains out of reach for many feds, survey shows

Telework: Senate gives unanimous thumbs up

Telework: Report tells tale of operational benefits, management resistance

The House bill passed July 14 was amended from a previous version that failed on a vote in May. The bill now must be reconciled with a similar measure already approved by the Senate.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley applauded passage of the legislation. “Increasing federal telework saves gas, reduces road congestion and improves work-life balance,” Kelley said in a statement, referencing some of the benefits that advocates say an expansion of telework would bring to the government.

A recently released survey from OPM found less than 10 percent of feds who were queried said they telework at least one day per week. Twenty-three percent of those respondents said they didn’t telework because they weren’t allowed to, despite having jobs amenable to teleworking.

In April 2009, the Obama administration advised agencies to increase federal teleworking opportunities by standardizing their policies, appointing telework managing officers and creating appeals processes for employees whose requests to telecommute are denied.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Oct 7, 2010

i am AGAINST FEDERAL WORKERS telecommuting unless there are some really strict metrics to monitor their performance. private industry provides teleworking capabilities; however, a worker's productivity, value, and utility to the organization is always subject to scrutiny through firings, layoffs, RIFs, etc. it's essentially a "for profit" motive that keeps the workforce productive. however, with the federal government there is no such mechanism. how will agencies monitor folks on the payroll essentially "out of sight out of mind"... collecting a paycheck while at home taking care of their kids and possibly running their own home businesses. this only proves that the government has too much overhead. i say any governmnent employee who can work at home out of sight... isn't really needed.

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 Kate Lister San Diego CA

The staggering costs of lost productivity from federal workers during last Winter's snowstorms--estimated by the government at $71 million a day--would pay for the five year cost of the Telework Enhancement Act in just one snow day. Based on assumptions from a 2006 study commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration (conducted by Booz Allen), the Telework Research Network's Telework Savings Calculator shows that if those eligible employees who wanted to work from home did so just one day every other week (half the level required in H.R. 1722): Agencies would: - Increase productivity by over $2.3 billion each year - equivalent to 26,000 man years of work - Save $850 million in annual real estate, electricity, and related costs - Save $2.3 billion in annual absenteeism - Save $3.1 billion in annual employee turnover - Improve continuity of operations - Improve work life balance and better address the needs of families, parents, and senior caregivers. - Avoid the ‘brain drain’ effect of retiring boomers by allowing them to work flexibly - Be able to recruit and retain the best people - Offer fuller employment for disabled workers, rural residents, and military families Federal Employees would: - Achieve a better work-life balance - Save $400-$1,400/year in transportation and work-related expenses - Collectively save $57 million a year at the pumps - Suffer fewer illnesses The Nation would: - Save almost 3 million barrels and $233 million in imported oil - Reduce greenhouse gases by 532,000 tons/year—the equivlient of taking 97,000 cars off the road - Reduce road travel by 1.2 billion miles/year saving $20 million in road maintenance - Reduce road congestion thereby increasing productivity for non-teleworkers as well - Save 1,000 people from traffic-related injury or death each year and save $117 million a year in related costs - Improve emergency responsiveness - Reduce pollution from road work and new office construction - Preserve open spaces - Alleviate the strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure - Reduce terrorism targets of opportunity The savings per telecommuter would total about $5,200/participant per year. Kate Lister, Principal Researcher

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 Tom Simmons Citrix Public Sector (Bethesda, MD)

It is good to see Congress addressing an issue that can improve federal employee job satisfaction and retention, as well as offer cost savings to the government in times of lean budgets. The private sector has embraced the concept of telework; there are many companies ready to share their experiences and I hope that OPM will draw upon this wealth of information in devising new governmentwide policies that will allow more employees to telework. --Tom Simmons, area vice president - US Public Sector, Citrix Systems, Inc.

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 Mr. C.

Lately I have been using a laptop for my primary computer. I find I put in extra hours now to do TDY orders, check in on important e-mail and other typical Gov related actions. I do not have a cell phone though. I am not technically in a telework program though. But I would like that option. By having remote computer access the Gov is going to find most competent employees are working more hours and doing a better more timely job. But supervisors need to keep a track of what is going on to make sure there are no goof offs. This can be done by monitoring TDY orders and vouchers and looking at time stamps on e-mails and or blackberries. Also if the job it getting done. If it is than no problem. Beats sitting in a 36 SF cubical in some hard to commute to location.

Thu, Jul 15, 2010

This is great. We need a liaison because we are being lied to at the gov't agency where I work. Upper Management tells employees that they must be a certain grade and in a certain series to telework. The Director says she likes to see, touch and put her hands on the employees who work under her.

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