Telework Improvement Act Impacts Agency Hiring and Retention Efforts

Originally posted to Unleash the Monster

As the federal workforce becomes younger – almost one in three of the 142,690 federal workers hired last year
were 29 or younger and one in four was between 30 and 39 – the “typical
workday” may change dramatically.

The road to one change was paved earlier this summer with the passage of the Telework Improvements Act which aims to expand work-at-home options for federal agencies. However,
despite support from the Obama administration and, presumably, a younger
workforce, a recent survey of federal workers showed that only 10
percent take advantage of telework flexibilities.

The Telework Improvements Act is designed to ensure that agencies appoint a telework managing officer who would work toward boosting
participation for those federal workers who don’t handle secure or
classified information. Some agencies are ahead of the curve with
initiatives that help them manage information security concerns. For
example, the Veterans Affairs Department has equipped about 60,000 of
its 300,000 employees with technology enabling them to work remotely
without compromising security.

Government personnel experts predict that in 10 years approximately 400,000 of the 2 million federal workers will be younger than 35, and
those workers will expect to partake in the same types of work-life
balance initiatives, including telework, that are offered to their
private-sector counterparts.

However, aside from employee expectations, there are practical reasons to expand telework flexibilities in government. For those
workers in the Washington, D.C. area, the snowstorms of earlier this
year – dubbed “Snowmaggedon” – effectively shut down their ability to
commute to work for multiple, consecutive days. Telework would save the
government millions of dollars in lost productivity due not only to
these types of weather events but also to the traffic congestion that
can unexpectedly derail any commute in the DC area.

According to John Streufert, deputy chief information officer for information security at the State Department, in a story on GovExec.com, “There’s a lot of talk about the trouble of commuting to work, but to
me the real national security issue is if we had something that
disrupted the ability of the federal workforce to get to the office,
could we continue to provide the services of government? I think you’d
find that many departments and agencies would have problems.”

The Government Accounting Office will be responsible for ensuring that agencies are participating in the Telework Improvements Act’s
work-at-home initiatives. This vital new program could be a key
component of keeping our government workers engaged, satisfied, and able
to work through any potential crises.

Authored by Tim Lagan, Monster Government Solutions

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