Let's face it, the Telework Enhancement Act needs to be enhanced.
Beefing up the three year-old law is necessary for telework to flourish at all agencies across government.
In short, remote work should be standard operating procedure by now for feds deemed eligible by their agencies. That’s why Uncle Sam’s #2 New Year’s resolution should be telework expansion gov-wide. My other Top 3 recommended New Year’s resolutions are:
Benefits of Telework
Remote work contains inherent benefits for the federal workforce, many of which have been well documented time and again. These include, but are not limited to:
- Major cost savings for government and taxpayers.
- Continuity planning for emergencies and shutdowns.
- Protecting the environment by lessening gas guzzling commutes.
- Improving the work-life balance for feds who are caregivers, parents and others.
- Accommodating employees with disabilities (as appropriate).
- Contributing to flexible work schedules and alternative work arrangements.
Perhaps most importantly, a robust telework program empowers feds to work more efficiently, effectively and with increased accountability.
Attracting a New Generation
Government can also leverage telework as a strong incentive to boost employee morale, in addition to attracting a new generation of young people to federal service.
This is increasingly important due to the long-predicted “retirement tsunami” and related “brain drain” of policy expertise and institutional knowledge.
For all these reasons, telework expansion should be an integral aspect of strategic human capital planning at all federal agencies in the year ahead.
Still, much more needs to be done to turn telework into standard operating procedure for all eligible feds at every agency.
$14 Billion is Savings
Estimates show that telework can save the federal government about $14 billion annually, according to Federal Times. This huge amount is significant to taxpayers who often complain about too much government spending and waste.
Federal News Radio reports that about half of the federal workforce is eligible to telework. Yet this has not led to the next logical step of feds being designated “telework ready” and then actually doing it on a regular or periodic basis, as appropriate for one’s specific position.
So what’s blocking more telework?
One key and well known factor is continuing management resistance.
Many managers and supervisors need more advanced telework training. Moreover, agency leadership should clearly communicate the important benefits of remote work.
Feds already declared telework ready should be allowed to work remotely ASAP. Of course, they must be held accountable for high productivity and satisfactory work products.
Those employees who fail to telework with successful results should have the practice immediately revoked -- as remote work is not for everybody.
Transitioning to the Virtual Office
Telework is a natural fit with today’s fast evolving digital/mobile world, which includes the contemporary workplace.
In addition to the other benefits cited, remote work will help smooth the transition for Uncle Sam from the traditional brick-and-mortar workplace to the ever increasing virtual office paradigm.
In essence, expanding telework gov-wide simply makes good business sense, not to mention common sense in the 21st century workplace.
If telework adoption continues to stagnate then Uncle Sam should consider mandatory policies applicable to all feds eligible to telework – about half the federal workforce as noted above. Agency leaders also need to hold managers accountable for implementing telework goals.
The start of the New Year is an opportune time for agencies to ramp up remote work. Thus let’s hope all agencies resolve to make telework expansion a top priority in 2014.
National Telework Week is just a couple of months away.
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* All views and opinions are those of the author only.