The notion of “telework” isn’t new; it’s commonly used in the private sector for positions that involve analytical thought, professional work products, counseling, training, and the like. So why is OPM pushing it without Congressional mandate? (See FedSmith’s article titled “Telework in the Federal Government”).
Unlike the profit-motivators and cost-cutting measures that stimulate this type of workplace decisions for private sector employers, pushing the “telework” button with bureaucrats will not make it happen! Bureaucratic supervisors like to see their direct reports everyday; they like to keep them close at hand for impromptu meetings either with them or with higher level officials who need explanations that they are unable (or unwilling) to provide. Many take great pride in showing off how many direct-reports sit outside their hallowed office door!
Today’s “worker-bees” come to the table with graduate and post-graduate degrees, eclectic professional experiences in the private sector, and the desire to provide actual “service” in their jobs with the Federal government. Unfortunately, it was never necessary for the existing supervisory remnants employed by the Federal government to keep up with the ever changing times. Now at the apex of their self-serving careers, today’s Federal supervisors, managers, and senior officials are throwbacks to those simpler, less demanding workplace times and they’ve clung to the only supervisory techniques they’re familiar with … the antiquated methods they were subjected to in their early years with the Feds. How often I’ve heard the words “We’ve never done it that way in the past” when I’ve yearned to hear something like “thank you” instead! Simply put, it would take a sweeping Act of Congress to unleash the bull-dog and mandate what’s needed for this type of institutional change to take hold.
Here’s a good example of what I mean: Why do most Washington, D.C. based agencies require their employees to be physically present and working in or near the D.C. area when most of these National-level, policy-making positions are at grade levels high enough to allow for performance-based supervision (rather than the touch & see method of overseeing direct reports).
Allowing employees to Telework from locations throughout the country would vastly improve the D.C. pool of available and capable job candidates and it would include the entire pool of Federal employees, nationwide! It would also open the door for highly capable non-Federal employees to find reliable and purposeful work for our nation without having to relocate to one of the most expensive workplace environments in the nation!
Alas, if only the geriatric-supervisors and officials of days long passed were willing to allow employees to work from duty stations elsewhere in the United States! This novel concept would permit our Nation’s “brain-trust” of institutional knowledge to grow from the ideas that would come from staff members outside the beltline, having different perspectives and different experiences than the finite & elite Washingtonians. And, could it be so? This might help invigorate the sagging conglomerate of ideas that are incestuously moved around the beltline by people who get reassigned from one Washington agency to another but, who NEVER have worked at the service delivery level somewhere beyond the beltline, say, in the rest of this gigantic landmass we know as our fair nation!
Telework simply can’t work until the tired and washed-out Washington bureaucrats step aside and let new, more cost-saving, and quality-of-life improvements come to pass in the Federal government!