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Will Work from Anywhere

So, I’ve been experiencing a problem – social media fatigue. Keeping up with the influx of managing multiple social media accounts not just personally, but professionally, has caused a significant lapse in how much “love” I give certain spaces, including GovLoop. But, I’m following up on some Twitter encouragement to take this conversation and bring it here. It was originally posted at www.lindykyzer.com a few weeks ago, but I’d love to continue the discussion with you all!

Telework or remote work agreements are steadily increasing their buzz in the Washington, D.C. area. We got some help from the national capital region’s “snowcopolypse” which crippled government and kept thousands of Washington area commuters stuck in their homes. Lightbulbs went off in the minds of many who said, wait a minute – is there a reason why these people can’t get their jobs done from home? (Congress has been tossing legislation concerning telework back and forth for years, but most federal agencies have done a great job of ignoring what seems to be a congressional inclination toward allowing federal workers remote work options).

I, personally, am a huge fan of teleworking. And not for the often touted reasons of productivity or environmental savings (due to lack of commuters and cars on the road). I see telework as a key way for the federal government to become a competitive employer for today’s Y generation and the booming population of digital natives hitting the workforce.

I’ve never believed in the notion that according to work well, I need to be sitting in an office to do it. In today’s digital age there are increased opportunities to get your work done from anywhere – including your home, the local Starbucks, or a jump seat at a local office or commuter station. Working from home is one of my key job requirements, and one of about 15 reasons why I left my last job. The fact that the federal government is currently letting good (and often young) talent look elsewhere to get the flexibility they need is a key reason they need to get on board with the trend.

One often touted negative to telework agreements is the risk that employees won’t get their work done, or will find themselves watching Oprah at home rather than doing their work. As someone who’s spent some time in the federal government I always find this argument laughable – the notion that it takes a government employee to be at home to waste their workday is quite funny to me. I’ve watched federal employees not work, take two-hour lunches and otherwise waste away their workday perfectly well in an office – and I wouldn’t expect it to be any different when they were at home.

Telework actually requires federal managers to be what they should be in the first place – results focused, rather than hours focused. Telework agreements should include a clear understanding of an employee’s deliverables when it comes to getting work done outside of the office. Fortunately, social media based tools make this kind of accountability and connectivity easier than ever.

There will always be certain jobs that simply can’t be done from home. But for the most part, jobs across government, in particular, are well primed to be taken out of expensive Washington, D.C. area buildings and put into people’s living rooms. And perhaps once we get federal employees used to performing and producing results, rather than simply putting in time, we’ll actually take the steps to downsize our bloated system and increase effectiveness.

Just my thoughts – I’d love to know what you think. Work at home? How does it work for you? Think there are too many benefits to being in the office? I’d like to hear what they are.

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Lori Winterfeldt

Great points and right on target! The question is how do we get the momentum going on this. As you mentioned, current pockets (at least many that I’ve encountered) have been super resistant.

Definitely on the same page as you in terms of info overload. I think that all of us will continue to come up with different strategies to increase our efficiency and comfort with social media as these trends progress.

Scott Horvath

Nice work Lindy. I, too, believe that there are many positions within the government that could be done by means of telework. As you said, “certain jobs…can’t be done from home”, but Government should place an emphasis on getting those that can, to.

I’ve teleworked many times. In fact let me give you an example of how it’s useful…what I’m doing right now. I’ve been working at home this morning from 5:30am and going till about 7am before I have to be somewhere for family obligations. Then, I’m going into the office immediately afterwards and working the rest of my day there. My office is 45 minutes away from my house and I don’t go into the office until around 6am. So, because I’m home and equipped to telework…I’m actually started working earlier than I normally would going into the office. In fact, I could’ve just taken annual leave instead of working that measly hour or so. But I didn’t and opted to work instead.

On a typical day do you think I’d be willing to drive 45 minutes to get my office by 5:30am….work till 7am….and then turn around and drive back 45 minutes to my house…just to then turnaround and drive 45 minutes BACK to the office to continue work after my family obligations? NO. Instead of taking annual leave for half of my day, I’m actually working as much as I can…while I can.

For me, teleworking is extremely helpful in situations like this. When the snowstorms hit, I was working as well…from home.

I’m looking forward to when teleworking, for those that can, becomes a reality for much of the government.

Now, the only thing needed is to get a faster connection where I am over this DSL line…then I’ll be golden.

Note: These comments are of my own opinion and are not endorsed by any Government organization.

Lindy Kyzer

Thanks all for your comments. Glad to see telework is working for you, Scott – it’s such a quality of life issue and employers – especially with the commutes we see in this area – do good to recognize that. I always like the argument that telework doesn’t just benefit the employee. As you point out – you’re able to get more work done and take less leave. I don’t want to say we’ll have to wait a generation – I think we can move things forward sooner – but it is exciting to think what the workplace will look like in 5, 10 years. I think it will be a drastically different place.

Jay S. Daughtry, ChatterBachs

Great points, Lindy. The most powerful of which is the competition for Gen Y workers. I have worked primarily from home since 1999. While not every job can be done from home, it’s also true that not every person has the aptitude to work from home. Your point, however, about workers who can easily waste time in an office environment as well is funny and valid. The keys to successful teleworking are accountability and setting expectations, like when employees should be in the office (for example, for certain meetings, when customers/clients/partners are in the office, etc.). It really is about what work gets done and not where it’s getting done.

Sam Allgood

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘a jump seat at a local office’, but it makes me think that providing office complexes throughout the region that are not department-centric, but simply a place that provides office space/cubicles and computers with secure connections. This deals with a number of the issues that are presented such as providing offices that are closer to workers homes, reducing travel time, congestion, and pollution and provide more accountability (observable by other gov’t workers rather than home alone).

John Rosengarten

What is the value of having people drive cars to work? You have the time wasted on the commute, the fuel wasted for the vehicle and the employer has to provide parking.
Yes, some employees must be at work to “do” their work. But managers and information workers could easily do their job from home.
The only people I can imagine having a problem with this are the inferior managers… you know, the managers who have not a clue what to do so they spend their day counting pencils, complaining about messy desks and generally ruining any morale that the office may have had.
Good managers are inspiring leaders. An employee is eager to please such a boss, and does not need a nanny to be productive.
Also, wouldn’t this improve air quality and reduce congestion at rush hour for the rest who must be at a work site? Think of the fuel savings!

Marco Morales

I think that for some employees, who work around accessing and protecting sensitive information, the idea of having a home-based “work” computer for telework produces some real challenges. It’s not so much the “for or against” decision to accommodate teleworkers as it is an issue of cyber security and other such technically related concerns. It’s a challenge (logistically and cost-wise) to provide a customized secure, work-type setting at a person’s home, e.g., physical security, facilities, secure cyber connections, video surveillance systems, etc. Otherwise, I believe that bosses who don’t see the validity of allowing their employees the opportunity to telework — all things considered — are shooting themselves in the foot (to use a worn out cliche…).

Nancy Heltman

Thanks for a great article. Virginia is pushing telework but there are still many supervisors who have trust issues. I telework one day a week. I could probably do more but I still find an advantage to being around the office and involved in what is going on. Hopefully that will begin to change as well. We recently added a teleworker from Japan – a long time employee whose husband was sent to Japan. She is doing her job just as well there as here (maybe with even fewer distractions).

marcia carr

I am all for telework. Unfortunately the GOV is not a results oriented society. However, I feel with the influx of younger managers that the “old dinosaur” thinking that you must be present to be productive will go to the way side. Let’s just hope so.

Douglas Joubert

Hi Lindy,

Thanks for starting this conversation about telework. I did have one question about the following comment “Fortunately, social media based tools make this kind of accountability and connectivity easier than ever.” I agree that connectivity is made easier; however, I wondered if you could expand on the accountability issue. I ask this because I am looking for best practices for “accountability” and I would love to include some information on social media.