February 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm #154579
Each week, GovLoop teams up with the Washington Post to ask a “Federal Worker Question.” This week’s question is:
Why the heck aren’t you teleworking yet?
Okay, so that’s not how the Post put it, but I’ve got to tell you: I’m tired of seeing Feds commute for (literally) hours in the disaster that is DC traffic, polluting the spacious American skies and sustaining those eye sores disguised as Federal offices along the National Mall (and other beautiful cities across the country).
I say this with such disdain because I spent the better part of two years in my previous job working with OPM to build a 3-hour training that equipped Federal supervisors to manage a remote workforce (1 out of 4 Federal employees say they’re not allowed to telework). We also created a companion course for teleworkers so that they both could be on the same page.
**Update: In partnership with HP, we recently developed and launched our Telework Calculator, a tool you can use to find out how much you (and your company) can save by teleworking.
So what’s the hold-up in your office?
Management (unnecessarily) uneasy?
(I know that one’s sensitive. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll share anonymously)
Your job requires you to be physically present?
You actually like long commutes and life in cubicle-ville?
Enough’s enough. To channel Charleton Heston: Let my people go (home)!
You can also comment at the Washington Post or on Twitter using the tag #fedbuzz.
February 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm #154595
Here’s the first response via email:
I am personally able to telework as much as I can – currently 2 days a week.
However, here are the barriers for others (in order of importance).
1. There are LOTS of employees who just CAN’T Telework, especially in agencies like VA and DHS. They need to guard the borders, screen passengers, etc.
2. Managers who just don’t trust their employees enough to allow them to telework. These employees barely perform while in the office, and they are afraid to let them out of their sight.
3. Managers who are traditionalists and are not technologically literate, who still operate in a paper-based world and only interact on the phone or face-to-face.
4. Some employees don’t have the basic tools (laptop and blackberry) to telework, but it goes back to non-supportive managers, who don’t want to invest in telework.
5. Some employees just don’t WANT to telework, either because they are older or they are REALLY social animals and enjoy direct interaction with others.
– ANONYMOUS from an UNDISCLOSED US FEDERAL AGENCY
March 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm #154593
Another email response (fascinating to me the number of people that want to comment anonymously on this subject):
- Our management doesn’t feel like we can be trusted to actually work when they don’t see us. We all have clearances, thanks to Sept 11th. If the Government trusts us then we should be trusted to do the job we were hired to do. If we don’t produce quality work then we should be fired from our job. This is a management issue that should be dealt with on a case by case basis not as a blanket policy. My management is now drafting more rules on how to telework which will make it almost impossible for any one to telework or have any flexibility in teleworking. Will be easier to take leave for the entire day than try to mess around with all of that! That’s all fine and good if you have the leave, but I think it will become discrimination against families and working parents. They don’t necessarily have the extra leave time to waste it that way. Plus if you start becoming so rigid here parents will not feel they can do what they need to do for their families without taking leave. This sets a bad precedent for the future of the Government workforce as a family friendly organization. It also means that during inclement weather, natural disasters, or other events preventing us from coming to the physical building the Government will be shut down and not able to provide citizens with the information or assistance they may need. If you support others in the field, you might not be able to do that if you can’t telework.
- Another barrier to teleworking for us is our infrastructure. We don’t have adequate scalability for our VPN system. It takes forever to logon. Once you get into the network it is unreliable and tends to disconnect you fairly frequently. This looks like a load issue. The system doesn’t seem able to scale with the number of people who want access. Based on the new rules my management is working on and the current state of our VPN system this means almost all teleworking will be stopped and not allowed.
- All jobs in my department do not require us to be physically present. Everyone should be able to telecommute up to 3 days a week. Good communication is still best done in person. Therefore, having employees in the office 2 days a week for meetings would be helpful. Of course new employees would not be able to telework until they got up to speed about their job and the organization.
- Teleworking would allow the Government to save significant amounts of money through not requiring as much square footage of office space and providing hoteling options like a private sector company.
- Biggest draw back with teleworking is the Government does not provide a PC or Internet connectivity. We have lower level employees who could be part of the digital have nots. If the Government really wants to encourage teleworking then they should provide equipment and pay the cost or a portion of the cost for people to access the Internet. If we don’t do this, then we would be discriminating against our lower income employees.
March 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm #154591
Here’s a special situation (which corroborates a bit with the previous comment) – anybody else experience something similar? Sounds like there is some discrimination based on level of employment…
I have filed two Union grievances in two months and filed EEO last week and it is under investigation at this moment. Management would not let me telework full time from home while under doctor’s care.
I live 250 miles from office. I worked full time medical telework for one year, until new management took over and all of my requests are turned down for medical telework and I gave many doctor’s notes states it is imperative I work at home due to safety. I have family and medical provider where I live now since, I have no family in the area.
I worked 6 days per month from home until my supervisor rated my performance as “fails to meet expectations” which gave them grounds to terminate telework and AWS and ordered me to show up in office. I cannot physically be in office on Monday. No income since my surgery last year as I am on LWOP since then.
I am still under doctor’s care and I cannot come to our offices.
My agency promotes to the public to save energy and yet punishes employees like myself who are the lowest paid employee in terms of salary while higher paid employees who are at GS 12 and above enjoyed working full time from home. I am a GS 8 employee and housing in DC area is very cost probitive and I have moved every 6 months while working at this duty location until July 2010 when I was able to work from home full time until Aug 2011.
I know there are three GS 12 employees and two of them who live other states who are working from home full time medical flexiplace and my agency pays their travel expense to come to our duty location while I pay my own travel expense to travel to get to the office. Why can’t the agency pay a GS 8 employee to travel and GS 12 employee pay their own travel?
March 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm #154589
At my federal agency, upper management is actively discouraging telework, even for inclement weather, and also, of
course, for those who have a long commute, and even those people who do not need to be in a laboratory or office.
I am a manager myself, and I was handed down this edict from upper management (verbally, of course, to hide any paper trail), the second in command at this agency. We are supposed to verbally deny any application for telework, which violates the law stating that rejections are to be documented along with a valid business reason. That upper managers are simply not liking telework is not a valid business or even technical reason.
It’s embarrassing that an agency supposedly at the forefront of technology won’t even allow their technical staff to telework, while upper managers have approved (approved by themselves doubt- it’s blatant hypocrisy) telework agreements and federally funded smart phones, which is a form of telework… didn’t POTUS himself and
Congress promote telework legislation??
March 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm #154587
More from email:
My work office and home office are well equipped – I’ve got my blackberry, 2 laptops (one for performance, and one for travel), printer, etc. – to work at home: evenings, weekends, sick days, vacation (yes, I said vacation). BUT my supervisor does not believe in teleworking or adjusted work days. She thinks that people should be in the office and that we need to be able to talk to each other at any time during the day. She cannot embrace the idea of video conferencing, instant messaging, etc.
March 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm #154585
Interesting, as I’ve read over all your posts here Andrew. I know this is a hot topic and am quite curious to see how this all plays out.
March 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm #154583
More from email:My immediate supervisor will not allow us to telework even though my job is conducive to it. The only reason he/she has given is that “we are a service organization” which I interpret to mean we respond to the needs of customers. Doesn’t everyone?What he/she doesn’t say, and what I believe is the real reason, is that allowing telework would completely change his/her management style. Instead of management by giving verbal and electronic orders (the reactive management approach), they would have to manage by assigning tasks and measuring results. In other words, they would have to actually MANAGE their employees.For the Telework Act to truly work, senior leaders need to establish an “opt-out” policy, like at GSA. Otherwise, byzantine and incompetent managers will always be in the way with their excuses.
March 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm #154581
I have been able to participate in a full-fledged telework program almost since Day 1. It took some work through all the mobility growth spurts along the way, but the agency seems to understand and anticipate reaping the rewards. That said, however, there are some individual managers at various levels of the organization who are controling in all their employee/manager relations and that, of course, spills over into telework.
Telework is not for everyone and requires some self-initiative, self-regulation, and self-management. I find myself being very flexible to meet with colleagues from various time zones at all hours of the day which can make it seem that I’ve been “working” for 8 – 15 hours a day. Sometimes the project or issue is important for me to do that and I don’t work like that regularly, but, it’s nice to have that kind of flexibility for me and my colleagues.
Teleworkers have to be able to communicate and participate over distance and somethings are more time-consuming to accomplish that way, but most everything can be done. You have to be very clear about closing topics in meetings, setting up next steps on projects, making sure everyone involved has the coordinates of conference calls and appropriate time zones–some of the usual stuff if you work with people outside your immediate office building anyway, but you have to develop routines to ensure everything is covered. You have to do this because it becomes your new way of working.
You also have to be aware that you may become disconnected from peers in the long run. Not a bad thing for some things, but if you are one who thrives on maintain close relationships with your team/peers, just develop some ways to keep connected to them.
I think a solution for managers who can not conceive of unleashing telework could be that a mandatory percentage of each employee’s work time be from telework. Managers who have successfully implemented telework should mentor those hold outs and help move them into the 21st Century–they need help with: mobility tools, good manners and communication over distance, coaching across distance, and managing the processes. If there continues to be this stand-off, perhaps an introduction to possibilities in retirement or reassignment out of the leadership/management without the advantage of the flexibilities (telework, maxiflex, family leave, others enacted since 1992) since they seem to be most comfortable in that era.
That’s my humble opinion.
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