COMMENTARY: OPM’s newly issued “2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government”
report contains new insights on telework, some good news, and at least one major issue that will require close oversight.
Despite the inability to accurately track trends over the previous years due to changes in how the data is being gathered and reported, it’s clear that the use of telework is increasing significantly and also being accepted as a normal and desirable business practice.
There is also growing evidence that telework benefits not only the employees, but perhaps more importantly, it’s a tool that enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of the government when used properly.
It was interesting to note that federal employees who telework were more likely than non-teleworking employees to know what is expected of them and to feel accountable for results. The data being gathered over time will likely document the benefits of telework to help achieve other desirable goals such as reducing energy consumption, traffic congestion and helping ensure the continuity of government during times of disaster.
One vulnerability worth keeping an eye on, however, is the simple fact that telework can be misused by managers who do not invest the time and effort to manage well.
The report notes, for example, that resistance among managers was a significant challenge to greater use of teleworking. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a situation where a reluctant manager is pressured to increase teleworking among employees, but does so without proper planning such as setting clear expectations and monitoring results and the desired benefits.
So one caveat is that not only should teleworking employees be held accountable for their performance, but the managers must also be held accountable as well for doing their part. When that happens, the OPM report makes it clear that it can be a “win-win” situation for employees and the government.