September 8, 2013 at 6:06 pm #179878
As GovLoop recently reported, the implementation of remote work is still a a big issue for government agencies and employees.
An article in Inc.com offers 18 tips for teleworkers to increase productivity:
- “Remote workers weigh in on what helps them amp productivity and stay in touch with the office.”
1) What are your top tips for teleworkers?
2) What has or has not proven successful when you work remotely?
3) Can you offer any best practices or share experiences not listed by Inc.com?
4) Ultimately, do you think telework will be universally adopted and implemented government-wide? If so, what more will it take?
* Note: GovLoop has been very proactive in offering a range of valuable telework guides and resources. Here’s one more infographic to consider…
September 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm #179902
This has been discussed for “several years” now, and IMO the only way that the status-quo will change is the first level of management needs to fully understand that a teleworking/flex employee does NOT cause them to loose power.
Having been a full time teleworker, for the last 6 years of my federal career, and a part time teleworker for the 18 years prior to that, I learned very early that a successful teleworker will spend a significant amount of time developing and maintaining “open lines” of communication and perhaps even more important TRUST, not only with one’s supervisor but co-workers as well.
September 9, 2013 at 4:01 am #179900
Thanks Henry, as always, for your unique insights — which are very much appreciated.
I’m just wondering what your Top 5 best practices or tips are for those of us who do telework on a regular or periodic basis?
Did any of the 18 tips offered by Inc.com appeal to you when working remotely? If so, which ones? If not, why didn’t they?
Also, while there has been much interest in — and discussion about — telework over the years I’m not sure there’s a universal consensus among actual teleworkers on priority best practices.
What works for some may not work for others. For example, I don’t go to Starbucks or any other coffee shop to work when I’m teleworking. For me that would be a major distraction and an unproductive endeavor.
I would, however, get some overpriced java to go and then resume working at my home office.
What are your thoughts, kind sir?
September 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm #179898
Great list of telework tips! I’ve been teleworking for more than 20 years (just a couple days a week). I’m a big proponent of using technology (Lync, Adobe Connect, etc.), but it’s tough when not everyone is engaged or using the technology. Some office proponents only use the telephone and e-mail and there are still lots of folks who think that “facetime” is important (no, not THAT Facetime).
We haven’t quite reached the tipping point where telework is an acceptable practice, but the forces are with us (e.g. office space reduction, green-house gas reduction, weather contingencies, productivity measures, etc.).
For more tips, I highly recommend attending the Fall Telework Town Hall Meeting (free). Register at
September 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm #179896
1. Make a major effort to see yourself as others see you and seek out unbiased viewpoints. I have been stunned by the number of people I meet who report successfully teleworking for long periods but when you talk to their colleagues the response is “s/he only works 3 days a week”. Probe your supervisor to make sure they really are satisfied with your work and not just papering over their frustrations in order to support the workplace fad de jure. Also make the same effort with your colleagues who stay at the office to ensure they do not feel they are picking up the assignments you never hear about because you are not there.
2. Focus on “closed door” work. Any assignment you would do in the office with the door closed or with a “do not disturb” sign on your cubicle is probably fair game for telework. Proactively call or email your supervisor and colleagues 2-3 times a day to learn what is happening. Make an effort to chat on the phone about work related hallway/elevator/breakroom knowledge you may be missing.
3. Establish a well defined performance goals/metrics with quaterly progress reviews and annual performance evaluations. You should do this regardless of where you work but it is particularly helpful for remote workers to be able to maintain focus and document they are meeting or exceeding expectations.
4. Telework and Results Oriented Work Environments will eventually become the norm in government as well as private industry. This trend may also be accompanied by more outsourced freelancing of individual assignments. I could see a work environment in which individual certified government service providers bid monthly or weekly on tasks they complete remotely. Once certified as competent and secure they could access an Ebay like site where government managers would list assignments along with minimum standards and due dates. Individuals would bid for the work much like they do on the reality show “Shipping Wars” and recive assignments based on their bid and their quality rating. they would work on as many or as few assignments as they want and do so remotely.
September 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm #179894
Top 5 Tips
1. Communicate with management
2. Communicate with others in your office
3. Communicate with others outside of your area of responisibility
4. Improve your Communication skills
5. Be available for Communicating
Comparison to INC. suggestions
- Although in a lot of cases, it isn’t terribly practical, would add an area dedicated to work, (no kitchen, living room, bedroom etc.)
- Work rather close with your IT department in either getting GFE IT equipment or maintaining your BYOD at a very high level. (This can be an expensive downside to teleworking)
- Not sure that I agree with Inc. regarding getting out of the “home office” to work.
- I treated trips out of the office, medical visits, non-work related visits with other people, as time required for a leave request or at the very least as time that I was expected to make up in order to give my employer the effort that I was being paid for.
- do I think there is much to be gained in dressing up for the office,
- Found that if I was to dress “business casual” I accomplished as much if not more than putting a coat and tie on.
- I found that a rather cost effective solution to the business phone vs. home phone was to put in a second line.
Initially, especially during the last 6 years of fulltime teleworking, I tried to be of the mindset I was being paid to work 40 hours a week during the hours of 8 to 4:30 with a 1/2 hour lunch break… After a short period of time I changed my mindset to the idea that as long as I covered the core hours (10 to 2) my purpose in my work life was to accomplish the agreed to results. Found that everyone appreciated my attention to results, and were not overly concerned about the hours that I worked..
September 10, 2013 at 1:21 am #179892
Thanks for elaborating, Henry. Your comments are very useful.
September 10, 2013 at 1:28 am #179890
Thanks, Terry, excellent points.
In an ideal world, gov would provide employees with all the necessary high-tech tools needed to do our jobs more effectively, efficiently, productively and expeditiously — especially for remote workers and managers (rather than relying on BYOD).
This may actually save substantial amounts of taxpayer money, while simultaneously increasing the public trust and boosting gov’s sagging brand image.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful and beneficial if all managers and teleworkers were equipped with smart phones and tablets so we could use Google+, Skype, etc. to enhance personal interaction with managers, staff and stakeholders, customers, etc..I know what you’re thinking: dream on!
September 10, 2013 at 3:42 am #179888
Thanks for your exemplary observations, Peter. You always seem to hit the nail on the head!
I think the bottom line for remote workers is that they must be proactive, productive and accountable as a basic foundation to build from. Some co-workers and managers will always resent remote work until it becomes the norm gov-wide on a grand scale.
While I’m not a big fan of corporate America, at least they supply staff with the latest IT tools to do the job in accordance with the evolving contemporary workplace. Yes, gov will get there too, but it will take much longer.
Regarding a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), that’s certainly way off in the future. OPM apparently conducted a small scale internal pilot that only yielded mixed results, at least based on whatever criteria they used. I think there should be more experimentation and pilot projects gov-wide for ROWE, similar to the experimentation and implementation of BYOD.
Again, Peter, thank you for sharing your always awesome insights.
September 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm #179886
FYI: According to NextGov.com:
EXPANDING FEDERAL TELEWORK COULD SAVE $12 BILLION A YEAR
Released last week by Global Workplace Analytics and the Telework Research Network, the report estimated that well-implemented federal telework programs could save taxpayers between $6 billion and $12 billion per year.
Those figures were calculated based on a set of assumptions about the impact of telework on real estate, absenteeism, turnover, productivity, transit subsidies, continuity of operations and health care.
The report estimated savings based on default assumptions from GWA’s Federal Telework Savings Calculator, which is continually updated based on more than 4,000 case studies and articles.
A report released by the Government Accountability Office in July found that agency leadership had not committed to implementing and tracking telework’s progress, despite the requirements of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act.
Most agencies lacked the technological capabilities and leadership to effectively monitor telework statistics, GAO found.
September 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm #179884
Work is not a place, it’s what you do! Aiyee! Goodness!
November 19, 2013 at 1:22 am #179882
At ICMA we have many informative documents, articles, and blog posts related to telework and how governments at the local level are responding to the increased need for more flexible scheduling. I went ahead and put together a short list of documents that provide guidelines for teleworkers, their managers, and the other factors to consider when implementing a telework policy.
- “The Telecommuter’s Guide” provides guidelines for teleworking employees as well as their supervisors and coworkers. This document includes an employee questionnaire that allows supervisors to learn more about their potential teleworker’s aptitude for telework.
- The City of Austin, TX’s “Telework Program Overview” provides a frequently asked question section that features questions that deal with teleworks’ work quality, how a supervisor can monitor a teleworker’s work, and how a supervisor can know if an employee is “really working.”
- Loudoun County, VA has an award winning telework program that has helped employees driving save 630 miles a month and nearly 11 hours a week in addition to decreasing traffic congestion, increasing employee retention, and increasing productivity. This article shows, at least at the local level, there is a difference in traffic and pollution when governments start allowing telework.
- For those on the fence about telework and are considering hiring a teleworker or allowing an employee to telework here are a list of the top 5 questions to ask your potential teleworker.
I hope you find these resources useful and that they provide you with even more tips on telework! As always feel free to reach out to ICMA if you have any comments or questions about the documents posted here.
Community Engagement Manager, Knowledge Network
November 24, 2013 at 8:55 pm #179880
Katharine, just a belated thanks for sharing those valuable telework resources. It’s good to know that governments at the state and local levels are implementing telework and flexibile schedules, both of which greatly enhance the work-life balance for many employees.
Hopefully, federal agencies will make more progress by designating employees who are 1) telework eligible, 2) telework ready, and 3) implementing telework on a regular basis.
Are you aware of any state or local gov entities who have implemented “Results Only Work Environments” or ROWE?
Thanks again, Katharine and good luck with all of your important work for ICMA.
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