Report Urges Improved Government Telecommuting Policies - InformationWeek

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4/2/2007
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Report Urges Improved Government Telecommuting Policies

Analysts with the Telework Exchange suggest agencies must provide 100% dedicated telework personnel and build a robust training program.

Federal employees are showing more interest in telecommuting, but federal agencies must do more to promote it, according to a recent report.

The report (registration required) issued Monday from the Telework Exchange notes that agencies show a lack of dedicated coordinators and personnel when it comes to telecommuting or telework. The public-private partnership promoting work-from-anywhere policies said that most coordinators spent 25% or less of their time focusing on telecommuting in 2006.

"Agencies aren't dedicating the appropriate resources to telework," Stephen O'Keeffe, executive director of the Telework Exchange, said in a prepared statement.

O'Keeffe said agencies aren't doing enough.

"Agencies must provide 100% dedicated telework personnel as well as build a robust training program for both management and employees," he said. "It is time to stop dancing around the issue."

Still, the percentage of coordinators who spent 50% or more of their time on telecommuting issues rose from 11% in 2005 to 47% in 2006, according to the report.

Interest in agencies also is increasing, according to the report. Eighty-eight percent of federal agencies consistently tracked and reported telecommuters' performance in 2006, up from 19% in 2005, according to the report.

Coordinators said that management resistance is the biggest barrier to telework adoption, according to 67% of respondents. Work-life balance and gas prices -- as well as a desire to continue operations during and after disasters -- promote it, according to coordinators who participated in the study.

The Telework Exchange praised Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., for introducing the Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, which would require federal agencies to appoint at least one senior manager in charge of telecommuting policies and practices. The bill (S.1000) would turn an existing law upside down by making all federal employees eligible for telecommuting unless their employer exempted them. It would require telework-related training for new employees and managers and require employee reviews to include feasibility discussions for each employee.

A report released two weeks ago praised the federal government for beating the private sector in terms of allowing workers to telecommute. That report cited the rising number of agencies that have adopted telecommuting policies and employees who reported the ability to telecommute.

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