It should be common knowledge by now that remote work will eventually transform the way government functions on a universal level, whether detractors of telework like it or not.
However, the tedious path to government-wide implementation of remote work continues to be painfully and unacceptably slow at too many agencies.
The question remains why?
GovLoop deserves accolades for its continuing efforts to educate and inform government leaders and employees about the critically important role and benefits of telework. Ditto for groups like the Mobile Work Exchange.
Pitfalls of Entrenched Bureaucracy
Uncle Sam’s continuing trouble with telework implementation government-wide shouldn't really come as a surprise. That's because proponents of remote work are fighting a longstanding and entrenched bureaucratic culture.
Historically it has been exceedingly difficult to transform the way government does business, even if there is overwhelming evidence showing why it is both practical and necessary. During the early to mid 1990s, for example, some agencies lacked full access to email their own employees in the field -- much less establish a strong presence on the Internet.
Meanwhile, our private sector counterparts were provided with laptops, cell phones and web access, as corporate America wisely embraced new and evolving technologies at the outset.
- So why must it continue to take government so long to catch on -- and catch up -- with technological innovation and modernization of the traditional workplace?
- Why does Uncle Sam still appear to be plagued and paralyzed by a Stone Age mentality when it comes to empowering employees through mainstream information technology, such as telework?
Uncle Sam Left in the Dust Again
For too long the private sector has left government in the dust in adapting to the information age. Apparently, some things never change.
This is largely because the gov-wide bureaucracy has always been change resistant, to put it mildly; the bigger the change, the greater the resistance. This dangerous and self-defeating dynamic must be reversed ASAP.
Unfortunately, too many government senior executives and managers prefer the deeply entrenched status quo, even though it is counterproductive and detrimental to good government.
Too many “powers that be” remain intransigent regarding remote work. Some agencies have been super slow to hop on the telework bandwagon in order to: 1) preserve their micromanagement ability, and 2) maintain an antiquated management structure.
Thus rather than empowering public servants to do their best work, too many managers remain stuck in a punch-the-clock, 9-to-5 mentality -- even as the private sector workplace continues to improve and attract needed talent away from government.
But telework opponents within government need to consider the bigger picture: we all lose by rejecting 21st century technologies that allow us to work smarter and more productively, which benefits the American people we strive to professionally serve.
Detrimental to Good Government
It has been proven over and over again that telework saves time, money and helps the environment. Additionally, telework allows employees to work more effectively, efficiently and expeditiously, while simultaneously improving the increasingly important work-life balance.
How many more studies and proven examples do we need?
Nevertheless, far too many gov agencies have continually failed to adopt, adapt to, and fully embrace telework. This anti-telework attitude continues to fester and fly in the face of the law (Telework Enhancement Act of 2010) and Executive Branch directives.
While there are several model telework agencies, such as the USPTO, GSA and USDA, most of the 100+ other federal agencies and subagencies are lagging -- which is disheartening and self-defeating to the cause of good government.
Meanwhile, trust in government continues to plummet, as does the morale of loyal and hard-working public servants.
In essence, it should be clear by now that failure to universally implement telework is a “lose-lose” situation for government and the American people. Stagnation and procrastination by some agencies must be turned around before Uncle Sam is again left fluttering behind the times.
Agencies gov-wide at all levels should welcome telework and provide all eligible employees with the necessary tools and technologies to do their jobs remotely. This is absolutely essential as the contemporary workplace continues to be transformed in beneficial ways -- thanks in most part to the IT revolution, which marches on with or without government.
Rather than tip-toeing around the issue, Uncle Sam should fully accept and embrace telework programs and policies on a universal level --- even if it means mandating remote work to some degree.
This will benefit all agencies, employees, stakeholders and citizens alike.
Question: Are you an opponent or proponent of remote work gov-wide? Please respond below.
Also check out:
- 18 Tips for Teleworkers: which best practices work for you? (Sept. 2013)
- Telework in Trouble? Why Mandatory Implementation is Needed (Feb. 2013)
- How to Make Telework Actually Work Gov-wide (Jan. 2013)
- Defining Work-Life Balance in a Digital/Mobile World (Sept. 2012)
* All views and opinions are those of the author only.