Enough with the Telework Talk Already!

I am so tired about hearing all the benefits of telework. I came from an Agency that had some of the first telework programs in government way back in the early 1980s. If you needed someone back then, you called and called and hoped you reached them. When the Agency determined it wasn’t working they dragged them all back into the office, kicking and screaming but productivity improved.

In the new, enlightened, computer age of telework, the Agency I worked for did a wholesale closing of offices, “coercing” people to telework. We bought them laptops, cellular phones, printers and all the latest electronic equipment and hard-wired phones at their homes. One year after the program started, productivity jumped off a cliff. You couldn’t find people when you needed them and when you e-mailed them at home you were lucky if you got an answer…my favorite was the “out of office reply”. The Agency made no provisions to revoke telework for unproductive employees…and since it closed the offices, the red tape to re-open an office meant a year before you could open one, if you found the funding and the space and a cooperative boss. My favorite was an employee who was put on a PIP, sat at his telework office for 30 days before being released back upon an unsuspecting public.

In my agency the only benefit of telework was a 4 day work week for employees that were looking for a reason not to work. I admit there were responsible employees that truly accomplished the agency goals and missions but they were a minority and carried the other employees. Poor supervision is to blame but how does a supervisor stand up when the head of the work unit and even the agency, teleworks. I stood up and it is part of what cost me my career.

In my agency, telework short-changed the public, murdered true productivity and benefited only those employees looking for a reason to “retire in place”.


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Neil McEvoy

Sounds like you experienced an exception to the rule. Every teleworking scenario I have been involved in works fine. Maybe every one hid because of the horrible micro-managing you describe.

David Dejewski

I’ve seen similar employee behavior in other situations where agencies attempted to “coerce” employees to do something. From what I read above, I see lot’s of execution errors. No provision to reverse telework for employees who can’t responsibly telework, no obvious training program for supervisors – leading to “poor supervision,” and that draconian action of closing offices tells me this agency got ahead of itself. It’s not really surprising that this was a bad experience.

Try calling the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) if you want to try a little experiment. Those people don’t telework. Yet, if the phone gets answered at all, you’ll be on hold for 30 minutes and in most cases, they’ll hang up at the end and you’ll have to start all over. This are so bad that my Resident Agent wrote:

“Maryland takes forever on filings, and doesn’t answer their phone. We recommend faxing the filing in and paying the extra $50.00 expedite, and paying the extra $5.00 certificate fee, so you’ll get something back. Without paying the 5.00 certificate fee, you won’t get a single thing back except a credit card receipt. Also, a copy of what was filed will still take the 8 weeks to get back, even with the expedite, and you may just not get it back after 8 weeks with no explanation. Looking on the SDAT name search is about as good as it gets to see that your company is registered. You’ll see the name search link below in the Internet Resources section. When and if the filing gets messed up, you’re best to fax a question back in through the fax line, because no one answers the phone in MD. You’ll be on hold for half an hour, and then it just hangs up on you. If you’re close to the SDAT, you can walk the filing in, but you have to pay the $50.00 expedite if you show up in person…”

I’ve got a property manager, on the other hand, who is rarely ever in the office. He carries his cell phone with him and is extremely responsive.