Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the first comprehensive overview of telework practices throughout the federal government since the enactment of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. Titled “2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government: Report to the Congress,” the July 6 document provides a baseline for evaluating federal telework programs. It indicates that while telework is playing a larger role in many agencies, the government as a whole has a long way to go in implementing policies to ensure that more agencies—and more employees—make the most of cost-saving telework opportunities.
The report indicates that as of September/October 2011, nearly 169,000 federal employees were teleworking at least one day a week—out of the more than 680,000 deemed eligible to do so. Put another way, while 32% of federal employees were eligible to telework, only 25% of them—and only 8% of all federal employees—actually did. Fifty-six percent of those who teleworked spent one or two days teleworking each week, while only 27% did so three or more days per week. (The other 17% either teleworked on a less regular basis or worked at agencies that did not track telework frequency.)
Although the 2010 act does not set goals for how frequently employees should telework or how much agencies should increase teleworking, it does require agencies to take the following actions, all of which aim to ensure a more systematic implementation of telework throughout the federal government:
- Establish a policy to allow eligible employees to telework;
- Designate a telework managing officer;
- Determine which employees are eligible to telework and notify them of their eligibility;
- Require agency managers to have written agreements with all employees who are authorized to telework;
- Ensure that employees have access to and complete an interactive training program before they enter into a telework agreement; and
- Adopt telework as part of their continuity of operations plans.
The report highlights a number of agencies that are ahead of the curve in the percentage of teleworking employees, including both large ones—like the Patent and Trademark Office (82%), the GSA (59%), and the Department of the Treasury (48%)—as well as smaller ones like the National Mediation Board (77%), the Appraisal Subcommittee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (70%), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (62%).
“Overall, the use of telework is expanding and improving in the Federal Government,” said OPM Director John Berry in the report’s opening message. “Ensuring its effective use will save energy and expense, boost accountability and resilience, and bring our Federal Workforce the responsiveness and flexibility that is expected in the 21st century.”