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Telework: The pros and the not so pros – Session Summary

The following is a summary from the Leadership at all Levels session on October 12, 2012. Speakers and participants in this session had the opportunity to discuss and share opinions on telework policies and issues in the federal government.

Guest Speakers:

Wanda Smith – GSA

Danette Campbell – USPTO


Telework offers some risks and efficiencies. To succeed, an agency needs not just a telework policy but more importantly a telework strategy. There are some good ones but most agencies are limited to policies that may tell how but do not address why.

The Telework Enhancement Act signed in 2010 by President Obama, allows employees to communicate through virtual environments, becoming more efficient while saving costs of real state space and energy as well as modify and expand the hiring pool in organizations among other things.

However there are some problems with communications through virtual environments and telework as a whole. Some people have a tendency to get distracted while working; it gets challenging for young workers to acquire new skills, adapt to the agency’s culture and learn from their older peers at work.

Employees need to understand telework is not an entitlement but a benefit. Having a concise conversation with a supervisor is critical. The conversation on telework should not only be a strategy for the procedure, but also on the expectations from both parties (e.g. on telework day send your supervisor an email on today’s expectations.); telework has to be a strategy designed to fit the management’s culture, focused in a short and long term and then be able to be measured. Communications should be flawless and a lot depends on you, the employee.

You could negotiate and establish expectations when you have your six month review.

It is important to remember we still have a telephone, pick up the phone and talk to people instead of emailing them, older workers may appreciate that.

Full time teleworkers with workaholic tendencies may have a very hard time focusing and balancing life, they tend to answer the phone at eight at night. In that case, controlling and managing expectations is necessary, even if technology allows us to stay connected twenty- four- seven.

It is the manager or immediate supervisor who needs to look at the job description not at the person asking to telework. The job description will tell you whether some duties are applicable to be done out of the office.

There are several federal agencies with outstanding telework strategies, the difference with the other agencies are in the several tips mentioned above. But the government as a whole seems a little far from full implementation of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act.

Some agencies like the USPTO even have basic IT training in the form of troubleshooting sessions for their employees , this may speed the process in which telework can be trusted therefore implemented. Agencies that are struggling with this policy could benefit from some “rising star” that could come up with a business plan, implement that for a year and measure the ROI.

To learn more about Leadership at all Levels please visit: www.actgov.org

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