Teleworking: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Teleworking spelled backward is Gnikrowelet. It just doesn’t look or sound right, which is about how non-fans feel about the process of pulling tens of thousands of happy-up-to-now feds from their home offices to their office-offices miles, and sometimes hours away.

Bosses were told the reverse exodus program will make everything better. Many are using the same arguments that were trotted out when they went into teleworking program. Back at work, at the real office, folks are told they will also be happier, more socialized and productive once they readjusted to life in a federally-owned or leased building, office or store front. But officials considering telework program changes first might want to check the press clippings about the Social Security Administration’s decision to move 12,000 teleworkers from their zero-commute-time home offices back to the a more traditional workplace. Or check out results of a survey of Education Department workers who say their enforced back-to-the-office program has hurt morale, and more than half said they are considering moving to another agency.

Other agencies that are tightening up work-from-home programs include the departments of Agriculture and Interior.

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Managers at all agencies cutting telework say it will make employees more productive, improve customer service and make it easier for managers to make sure workers are doing what they’re paid for.

Many workers say downsizing telework is having the exact opposite effect, and that hammers morale, doesn’t improve productivity and could hurt the mission of the agency. More cynical civil servants believe this could be part of a plan to hammer the pro-Democratic leaders of federal unions, eliminating popular programs won at the bargaining table, and maybe drain the headquarters swamp by forcing out long-time (aka disloyal) workers. Remember the former Interior secretary who said 30% of his employees weren’t “loyal” to the flag or their mission?

Social Security has drawn most of the attention, good and bad. That’s partly because it is one of the largest federal operations, covers so many people and, like the Postal Service, is in direct contact with so much of the general public.

The Education Department’s shrinkage of its telework program started earlier. And Federal News Network recently did a survey in which a majority of workers responding said they knew someone who, or they themelves were looking for jobs in other agencies because of the tightened teleworker rules.

Many people have predicted major workload problems this year because teleworkers will be commuting in very bad weather, which for many started over Thanksgiving.

In the meantime here are some comments from feds around the country:

“As if the telework situation could not get any worse, the administrator is having the top managers over [at] the Security West building send us moderately threatening emails. One went out yesterday. Speaking to us like we children, he told us that we were to be committed to our work and that our numbers have increased since 2018. It is scary and menacing. He wants the managers to walk up and down the aisles while we work to intimidate us. They don’t want to do this but are threatened as well.

“[SSA Commissioner Andrew] Saul is angry that we are fighting back through the media and senators. I am writing everyone. Our building does not service the public over the phone. We do claims, etc. He stated that he ended telework because the work could not be tracked, which is a lie. Here in the payment center we have a paperless system where we process work and the manager can see the movement in real time as well to see if we actually worked the cases. They would contact us while we teleworked so we were managed. Anyone caught abusing the system was removed. It was as simple as that.

“Now we are back in the office and we are being harassed for no reason. Can anyone help us? People want to retire right and left before their time. He does not realize how serious this can be as we need people. We only hire about 50 to replace 300. [It] takes two to three years to be proficient. Truth is I think he wants the system to fail.” — Just Plain Joe

“As a highly successful federal supervisor and manager for over four decades — almost all in the federal government — I can sympathize with both sides of the telework coin, but I wholeheartedly support the teleworker.

“When I first started to allow my staffs to telework, I was afraid that not a whole lot of work would get done at home. I was wrong. I soon discovered just the opposite. In the five agencies I have served in, I experienced exactly the same result. The problem is not with the teleworkers, it is with the supervisors and managers, especially junior and old school ones. Federal supervisors and managers who are new to management tend to be micro-managers until they learn to trust and respect their employees. It doesn’t matter what the age of the manager is, either.

“Most of the teleworkers in my experience, out of appreciation and dedication to mission, put in much more than eight hours of work a day and do not put the extra time on their time cards, even though I tell them that we have to abide with the federal Anti-Deficiency Act. I was also able to even allow telework for employees in the intelligence community who must normally work in a secure environment. There is always unclassified work that needs to get done, such as mandatory training, that can be done at home at least one day per week. The ubiquitous ‘virtual desktop’ is a godsend for teleworkers, allowing access to all agency unclassified file servers.

“An unwritten bonus to the telework program is that when there is a project that needs to get done ASAP, teleworkers are the first employees to offer to help by working extra hours to get the job done.  In my current agency, we have employees that telework from one to four days per week, and a few who telework full-time. This situation directly supports the agency’s devolution of [the] operations plan, which describes how the agency operates when the HQ staff is not available due to various ‘all hazards’ events.

“I will admit, however, that there is always that ‘10%’ who abuse the program, but these are the same employees who abuse other rules and must be dealt with accordingly. Now if we can only get senior managers to stop wasting taxpayer money on expensive boondoggle trips when instead they should use conference calls and computer programs like Adobe Connect and WebEx …” — Bart

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

The Brooklyn Bridge was the sight of a deadly disaster on May 30, 1883, just one week after opening. Holiday crowds gathered on the bridge’s promenade because it was the highest vantage point in New York City at the time, and near the Manhattan side a pedestrian bottleneck formed. Shoving among the crowd sent people down a short flight of stairs, sparking panic that the whole structure would collapse. A stampede erupted and 12 people were crushed to death while hundreds were injured.

Source: ThoughtCo

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