USDA makes advances in telework program

The number of teleworkers at the Department of Agriculture has swelled to more than 58,000 – up from just 16,000 a year ago. And, the agency said it hopes to have 40 percent of eligible employees teleworking by the end of 2012.

“The department has made a strategic effort to support the mobile workforce of tomorrow and identify the right skills, processes, and technologies needed to support them,” said Owen Unangst, director of enterprise network services for USDA, in a new case study by the Telework Exchange.

USDA updated its telework policy to meet the requirements laid out in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The policy now includes a new telework agreement form. The agency also developed a technical desk guide for teleworkers, which includes information on using wireless and Wi-Fi connections, as well as a new interactive training program.

According to the case study, the agency is also building an automated telework management system that will “track and report telework agreements, types of arrangements, and other important statistics relative to telework eligibility and participation. It also will offer a self-service portal for workers and managers to request, approve, and track telework agreements and enable reporting on eligibility and participation levels.”

USDA estimates its telework program could save it more than $250 million per year.

Despite the results of the case study, only 37.7 percent of USDA employees said they have been notified that they are eligible to telework, according to the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The agency’s average is still better than the government as a whole – only 27.2 percent of all government employees said they’ve been notified of their telework status.