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OPM Directors statement on Teleworking
April 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm #70989
OPM Director Berry Drives Plan to Increase Telework among Federal Employees
Advisory group would set standards; Telework Manager serves each agency
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry today announced a comprehensive plan to jumpstart agency telework programs out of a plodding first gear into a cruising fifth gear, giving tens-of-thousands more Federal employees nationwide the opportunity to leave their cars at home, and work from home. Today, only 5 percent of the nation’s 1.9 million Federal employees telework.
Berry’s plan to substantially increase telework participation consists of five components that, when taken together, form the basis for establishing effective telework programs that can be tailored to each agency’s unique culture. While promoting the general efficiency of operations, viable telework programs have long been suggested as an important feature of agency Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plans, as they can be implemented in short order during a national health or weather emergency.
Aside from their value during emergencies, telework programs – which typically allow employees to work from home one or two days each week on a regular basis – improve employee morale and productivity.
“I’m here to put some giddy-yap into telework,” said Berry. “I was raised in the D.C. metropolitan area, so I know a little something about the traffic congestion that frustrates commuters and saps them of energy even before they get to the office. With a sensible approach to creating model telework programs, thousands more employees will work from home one or two days each week on a regular basis – and thousands fewer will be on the road. Gone will be the anxieties of commuting for these folks, and they will ‘show up for work’ refreshed and ready to go. Taxpayers will benefit; and with less commuting time, employees will have additional quality hours to spend with their families and friends, or to pursue outside interests.”
Increased adoption of telework in Federal offices across the country, particularly in major metropolitan areas with large concentrations of employees, would have tremendous economic and social value. These programs would enable the uninterrupted delivery of government services if employees were instructed to work from home due to natural disaster or conditions that threaten human health, including concerns related to the spread of influenza. To facilitate agency business during emergencies, managers have authority to implement new telework agreements to the fullest extent possible.
The components of Berry’s plan are drawn from two bills which have been introduced in Congress: H.R. 1722, the “Telework Improvements Act of 2009,” introduced by Representative John Sarbanes (MD), and co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (VA), Danny Davis (IL), Stephen Lynch (MA), Tom Moran (VA), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), and Frank Wolf (VA); and, the “Telework Enhancement Act of 2009” (S.707), introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka and co-sponsored by Senator George Voinovich (OH). Berry has expressed his gratitude to those Members for their strong and consistent support of telework in the Federal Government.
Berry’s plan would:
* convene an advisory group of telework program managers to draw on their knowledge and expertise in formulating standards for telework policies
* direct agencies to submit telework policies for review against a set of standards crafted by the advisory group; OPM would provide technical assistance to help agencies meet the standards; OPM also would review the standards every three years to ensure continued adherence to the standards
* encourage each agency to establish the position of Telework Managing Officer, who would ensure telework policies are applied fairly and supported by agency managers
* encourage agencies to establish an effective and transparent appeals process for employees whose requests for telework or other flexible work arrangements are denied
* assure the provision of high-quality, broadly accessible training to remove managerial resistance to having staff work “out of sight” and to ensure managers and employees alike are trained and prepared to use telework successfully
In 2008, according to data OPM has collected from agencies:
* nearly 103,000 employees (5.25 percent of the federal workforce) at 78 agencies teleworked (this is an increase from 94,643 teleworkers in 2007)
* 44 agencies (56 percent) have fully integrated telework into COOP
Data about OPM employees show:
* 807 employees had telework agreements with their managers in 2008, up from 774 in 2007
* 177 of the teleworking employees worked from home 3 days per week in 2008, down from 328 who worked from home 3 days per week in 2007
* telework has been integrated into the agency’s COOP Plans
May 4, 2009 at 11:08 am #70993
Follow up news story (of which there are probably over 50)
Telework gets a ‘giddyap’ from OPM
* By Matthew Weigelt
* May 01, 2009
Democrats, Republicans and federal employee unions might not agree on much, but there is at least one bit of common ground: Telework is good, especially in metropolitan Washington, D.C.
Highlights from the Office of Personnel Management’s plan
* Convene an advisory group of telework program managers to help create standards for telework policies.
* Have OPM review agencies’ telework policies and help them meet standards.
* Encourage agencies to create a telework managing officer position to oversee the application of telework policy.
* Encourage agencies to develop a transparent process through which employees can appeal denied telework requests.
* Ensure adequate training for employees and managers.
At a press conference last week, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said he plans to have an advisory group of telework program managers craft a set of standard policies for departments. Ultimately, he wants agencies to see telework as a necessity, not a luxury.
Berry’s plan would have OPM review agencies’ telework policies and ensure employees and managers know about telework. He wants to encourage agencies to have a telework officer manager and make sure employees can appeal their denied telework requests.
“I’m here to put some giddyap into telework,” Berry said.
In 2008, nearly 103,000 federal employees at 78 agencies teleworked at least part of the time. That is about 5.3 percent of the workforce. In 2007, there were 94,643 teleworkers, according to data that OPM gathered from agencies.
Unions support the telework plans, in part because telework allows employees to continue doing their jobs even when emergency circumstances prevent them from going to offices. Although the swine flu is not severe right now, it serves as a reminder that dangers exist, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“The outbreak offers another vivid example of the importance of programs of this kind,” she said.
In case of emergency, 44 agencies — or 56 percent of agencies — have fully integrated telework into continuity-of-operations plans, OPM said.
With President Barack Obama and the Cabinet secretaries wanting more federal employees teleworking, Berry said he didn’t think compliance with the new plan would be a problem.
Yet, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who introduced a telework bill, said he still wants the bill passed “so that going forward the less enlightened have something that they need to adhere to.”
Telework is environmentally friendly, saves a lot of energy and makes life a little better, said Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.). He once met a French engineer delivering his work to Paris via the Internet from a boat off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. “That’s the kind of job I’m looking for,” he said.
Traffic congestion can frustrate employees and sap their energy before they get to work in the morning, longtime residents of Washington, D.C., say.
“In a region as congested as ours, not to have the federal government leading teleworking is almost criminal,” Rep. Gerald Connolly, (D-Va.), said at a hearing last week. “Yet, consistently it’s been the government that has been a laggard.”
May 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm #70991
This is ANOTHER story on the press release on or about April 29…
IMO Going to get INTERESTING to see if the Director of OPM can pull this off and whether he gets the support of the people that will make it work….
The new Office of Personnel Management director said he will call upon agencies to set up appeals boards that review whether employees can telework — even if their supervisors say they can’t.
John Berry said details of how the boards will work remain to be ironed out.
“We’ve got to make sure managers are comfortable with this idea,” Berry said. “But they can’t just brush this aside.”
He added: “It doesn’t have to be a ‘gotcha’ ’’ for managers. “It doesn’t have to be like [going to the Merit Systems Protection Board]. Just a little thing makes all the difference. If you know the employee has the ability to go to your boss and discuss this, and if you’re looking unreasonable, you’re going to be a lot more careful with that decision on the front end.”
Berry also will set up an advisory group made up of OPM officials and experts to set goals to increase telework, identify problems that discourage telework and help standardize telework policies across the government. Agencies will have to adhere to those standardized policies and regularly report to OPM on their progress, he said.
“I’m here to put some giddyap into telework,” he said.
OPM will provide technical assistance to agencies, and help organize training so both employees and managers know what is expected of them.
OPM will begin assembling the telework advisory board soon, but he did not set a deadline, Berry said.
Berry also wants agencies to appoint high-ranking telework managing officers, ranked at least GS-15, who would act as telework champions at their agencies. OPM would work directly with those officers to set up telework programs at their agencies and apply best practices.
The swine flu outbreak — if it worsens — is one example of an emergency that could require agencies to use teleworking to keep functioning, Berry said. Terrorist attacks, natural disasters or other such emergencies could also require employees to telework as part of a continuity of operations plan, or COOP, he said.
And telework could help employees avoid everyday problems such as the Washington area’s notorious traffic jams, Berry said.
“This is a no-brainer,” he said. “This is something we can do, and we can do better.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said traffic in the Washington area could be cut by about 5 percent if 20 percent of the local federal workforce telecommuted.
“We have 2.5 million [total] commuters every day in this region,” Connolly said. “We have the second worst congestion in America. Telework helps that.”
Creating a broader telework policy would also help the government recruit younger employees to replace baby boomers who are expected to retire in large numbers over the next few years, Connolly said.
“We face a brain drain,” Connolly said. “Those folks have to be replaced. Increasingly in the younger generation, the expectation is, ‘There is a telework option for me.’ ”
Berry’s announcement and early focus on teleworking drew praise from lawmakers and unions. But some want to see more details.
“This is a good start,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that advocates for expanded federal telework. “We would expect to hear more from OPM in the future on specifics to their plans.”
Federal Managers Association President Darryl Perkinson said managers and employees will welcome more consistent telework policies across the government.
“Now it’s a big negative when you say, ‘We can’t do it,’ and then you can’t tell them why not,” Perkinson said. “Some people [can’t telework] because they deal with confidential material, or they have to do hands-on stuff. But we need to put together fact sheets that support those decisions, so [we can respond] when people say, ‘Why can’t I?’ ”
About 103,000 federal employees at 78 agencies — slightly more than 5 percent of the federal workforce — now telework. Berry said that’s not nearly enough, although OPM has not set goals for how many employees should be teleworking.
About 34 percent of eligible OPM employees telework now, but Berry said even that isn’t high enough.
Connolly and Reps. John Sarbanes, D-Md., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and James Moran, D-Va., introduced a telework bill in March, HR 1722, which says eligible employees should telework at least 20 percent of their hours.
Berry said one problem with previous efforts to increase telework is that senior officials did not give it the attention it deserved.
“When things are in the ‘nice to have’ column, they sometimes don’t get the full attention,” Berry said. “We’re trying to move it to the ‘must-have’ column.”
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