The other day some co-workers and I were discussing how many members of our staff telework – or as the IRS calls it, “flexiplace.” While teleworking certainly has its benefits, it can also have drawbacks, including fewer opportunities for networking.
It didn’t surprise me that nearly every member of our staff works some variation of a flexiplace schedule. What did surprise me was how many of them have gone from situational flexiplace to occupational flexiplace.
The IRS defines “situational flexiplace” as working away from the official post of duty up to 80 hours a month. “Occupational flexiplace” is working full-time from a location other than the official post of duty. Whether they’ve been here for years or decades, it’s clear – in our office anyway – that occupational flexiplace is becoming increasingly popular for employees at the IRS.
I completely understand why this is an appealing option. It allows employees to work without constant interruptions of office activity, and gives them back valuable personal time they would lose commuting. If you’re a bona fide expert in your field, have a lousy commute or work in a field that doesn’t rely on a lot of interaction with your peers and colleagues, occupational flex is probably perfect for you too.
But what about those of us who are fairly new to government?
Don’t misunderstand; I truly appreciate the option to work at home, and do so regularly. I just can’t imagine working from home full-time. I’m still establishing my professional network and building relationships. By being in the office, I’ve had chances to catch up with a friend I met at orientation, see a colleague I wouldn’t otherwise get to see, and even shadow someone at another agency.
What do you think? Does teleworking make networking harder or easier?
Recruitment 411 is the official blog of the IRS Recruitment Office.
I think that given the many, many options for social on-line interacting, it IS very possible to accomplish much in the way of networking without ever being physically present. However, it is very difficult to go out to lunch with someone virtually!
I miss seeing folks in the office, but also feel like we stay tightly connected through tools like Gchat where we can share status updates and quickly talk about what’s going on – personally and professionally. In fact, some of our most memorable interactions have been remote…or maybe I just say that because it’s my world most of the time as a 90% out-of-the office worker.
I also find that my network is exponentially larger because I rely on GovLoop / Twitter primarily and Facebook / LinkedIn secondary as tools to stay in touch…would that interaction be limited if I were in the office?
I think it’s just different. Pro of occupational teleworking is can live in places that may be more affordable, better work/life balance, near family/friends. I think it’s key in these areas that you have key ways to connect – whether video chats, conference calls, regular in-person meetings.
I think successful telework and networking are definitely possible within government. Unfortunately, most in government don’t have the tools to help facilitate it – Skype, Google Chat, easily navigated internal networks/knowledge management communities. One benefit that government workers should take advantage of is leveraging outside of work hours events for networking, especially for those in the telework camp.
But I absolutely understand that your thought about how being new to government means it isn’t as easy. Stovepipes are a big barrier to collaboration in government, and they’re definitely more easily knocked down in person than on the interwebs!
As a member of the Occupational Teleworking team, I find that it is MORE difficult to network, especially in those areas which are not directly related to your professional duties, but doable.
Probably the thing that I miss the most is being involved in the reasoning behind a policy change, where if I was “in the office” I could/have been more involved in the process of deciding on the policy change.
Not terribly practical for me to run into the office (Office is 800 miles away) for any kind of networking be it professional or otherwise. My organization has been rather reluctant to take advantage of the extra tools available to improve the communications. Have learned over the past 5 years to take advantage of ALL phone conversations and email communications.
Thanks for the post Julie… teleworking is definitely not for everyone, and I think you make a good point that for those just starting out, going to the office can definitely help to build relationships and get a sense of office routines. However, I think as we continue to invest in newer technology, that will help eliminate some of the issues of remotely networking. I agree with Lindy’s post – remote workers who are proactive about networking by using tools like Skype and other video services will be way ahead of the game.
Teleworking is not the reason that relationships are not being built – investing in networking and relationships is the reason. I live far away from my family, but have a great relationship and talk on the phone with them often. While being there in person is always my first choice, it’s not the only way to keep relationships strong.