Each week, GovLoop teams up with the Washington Post to ask a "Federal Worker Question." This week's question is:
Why the heck aren't you teleworking yet?
Okay, so that's not how the Post put it, but I've got to tell you: I'm tired of seeing Feds commute for (literally) hours in the disaster that is DC traffic, polluting the spacious American skies and sustaining those eye sores disguised as Federal offices along the National Mall (and other beautiful cities across the country).
I say this with such disdain because I spent the better part of two years in my previous job working with OPM to build a 3-hour training that equipped Federal supervisors to manage a remote workforce (1 out of 4 Federal employees say they're not allowed to telework). We also created a companion course for teleworkers so that they both could be on the same page.
**Update: In partnership with HP, we recently developed and launched our Telework Calculator, a tool you can use to find out how much you (and your company) can save by teleworking.
So what's the hold-up in your office?
Management (unnecessarily) uneasy?
(I know that one's sensitive. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll share anonymously)
Your job requires you to be physically present?
You actually like long commutes and life in cubicle-ville?
Enough's enough. To channel Charleton Heston: Let my people go (home)!
You can also comment at the Washington Post or on Twitter using the tag #fedbuzz.
Here's the first response via email:
I am personally able to telework as much as I can – currently 2 days a week.
However, here are the barriers for others (in order of importance).
1. There are LOTS of employees who just CAN’T Telework, especially in agencies like VA and DHS. They need to guard the borders, screen passengers, etc.
2. Managers who just don’t trust their employees enough to allow them to telework. These employees barely perform while in the office, and they are afraid to let them out of their sight.
3. Managers who are traditionalists and are not technologically literate, who still operate in a paper-based world and only interact on the phone or face-to-face.
4. Some employees don’t have the basic tools (laptop and blackberry) to telework, but it goes back to non-supportive managers, who don’t want to invest in telework.
5. Some employees just don’t WANT to telework, either because they are older or they are REALLY social animals and enjoy direct interaction with others.
- ANONYMOUS from an UNDISCLOSED US FEDERAL AGENCY
Another email response (fascinating to me the number of people that want to comment anonymously on this subject):
Here's a special situation (which corroborates a bit with the previous comment) - anybody else experience something similar? Sounds like there is some discrimination based on level of employment...
I have filed two Union grievances in two months and filed EEO last week and it is under investigation at this moment. Management would not let me telework full time from home while under doctor's care.
I live 250 miles from office. I worked full time medical telework for one year, until new management took over and all of my requests are turned down for medical telework and I gave many doctor's notes states it is imperative I work at home due to safety. I have family and medical provider where I live now since, I have no family in the area.
I worked 6 days per month from home until my supervisor rated my performance as "fails to meet expectations" which gave them grounds to terminate telework and AWS and ordered me to show up in office. I cannot physically be in office on Monday. No income since my surgery last year as I am on LWOP since then.
I am still under doctor's care and I cannot come to our offices.
My agency promotes to the public to save energy and yet punishes employees like myself who are the lowest paid employee in terms of salary while higher paid employees who are at GS 12 and above enjoyed working full time from home. I am a GS 8 employee and housing in DC area is very cost probitive and I have moved every 6 months while working at this duty location until July 2010 when I was able to work from home full time until Aug 2011.
I know there are three GS 12 employees and two of them who live other states who are working from home full time medical flexiplace and my agency pays their travel expense to come to our duty location while I pay my own travel expense to travel to get to the office. Why can't the agency pay a GS 8 employee to travel and GS 12 employee pay their own travel?
At my federal agency, upper management is actively discouraging telework, even for inclement weather, and also, of
course, for those who have a long commute, and even those people who do not need to be in a laboratory or office.
I am a manager myself, and I was handed down this edict from upper management (verbally, of course, to hide any paper trail), the second in command at this agency. We are supposed to verbally deny any application for telework, which violates the law stating that rejections are to be documented along with a valid business reason. That upper managers are simply not liking telework is not a valid business or even technical reason.
It's embarrassing that an agency supposedly at the forefront of technology won't even allow their technical staff to telework, while upper managers have approved (approved by themselves doubt- it's blatant hypocrisy) telework agreements and federally funded smart phones, which is a form of telework... didn't POTUS himself and
Congress promote telework legislation??
More from email:
My work office and home office are well equipped – I’ve got my blackberry, 2 laptops (one for performance, and one for travel), printer, etc. – to work at home: evenings, weekends, sick days, vacation (yes, I said vacation). BUT my supervisor does not believe in teleworking or adjusted work days. She thinks that people should be in the office and that we need to be able to talk to each other at any time during the day. She cannot embrace the idea of video conferencing, instant messaging, etc.
Interesting, as I've read over all your posts here Andrew. I know this is a hot topic and am quite curious to see how this all plays out.
More from email:
I have been able to participate in a full-fledged telework program almost since Day 1. It took some work through all the mobility growth spurts along the way, but the agency seems to understand and anticipate reaping the rewards. That said, however, there are some individual managers at various levels of the organization who are controling in all their employee/manager relations and that, of course, spills over into telework.
Telework is not for everyone and requires some self-initiative, self-regulation, and self-management. I find myself being very flexible to meet with colleagues from various time zones at all hours of the day which can make it seem that I've been "working" for 8 - 15 hours a day. Sometimes the project or issue is important for me to do that and I don't work like that regularly, but, it's nice to have that kind of flexibility for me and my colleagues.
Teleworkers have to be able to communicate and participate over distance and somethings are more time-consuming to accomplish that way, but most everything can be done. You have to be very clear about closing topics in meetings, setting up next steps on projects, making sure everyone involved has the coordinates of conference calls and appropriate time zones--some of the usual stuff if you work with people outside your immediate office building anyway, but you have to develop routines to ensure everything is covered. You have to do this because it becomes your new way of working.
You also have to be aware that you may become disconnected from peers in the long run. Not a bad thing for some things, but if you are one who thrives on maintain close relationships with your team/peers, just develop some ways to keep connected to them.
I think a solution for managers who can not conceive of unleashing telework could be that a mandatory percentage of each employee's work time be from telework. Managers who have successfully implemented telework should mentor those hold outs and help move them into the 21st Century--they need help with: mobility tools, good manners and communication over distance, coaching across distance, and managing the processes. If there continues to be this stand-off, perhaps an introduction to possibilities in retirement or reassignment out of the leadership/management without the advantage of the flexibilities (telework, maxiflex, family leave, others enacted since 1992) since they seem to be most comfortable in that era.
That's my humble opinion.