USPTO opens up about telework success

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

With both the President, through the Office of Personnel Management, and Congress doing what they can to encourage more telework in the federal government, it might help to consider where it has worked well, and why.

The US Patent and Trademark Office is just the place to start.

Since it started 14 years ago, USPTO went from 18 examining attorneys teleworking to 5,359 federal employees currently teleworkering between one and four days a week.

Danette Campbell, the senior telework advisor, told Federal News Radio the key to making the program a success has been where the push came from.

This is really a top-down initiative. And what I mean by that is that it is supported from the director to the deputy director, all of our agency heads are very supportive of telework in order to advance our mission and goals there at the agency.

The technical support has been put in place and management practices and policies have been developed to keep the program rolling. Campbell described performance management practices including how eligibility is determined, an emphasis on communication and clear expectations.

In terms of technology, said Campbell, since the USPTO has to move massive amounts of data in the form of documents such as applications and trademark agreements, it must be done in a “very secure, error-free environment. We’ve spent a good deal of time devising ways to encrypt all of the data on which people work in an online environment. We’ve also gone to great lengths to be certain that no critical data are stored permanently on USPTO-issued employee laptops, so information is stored on the server, not on the laptop.”

And, said Campbell, it’s not enough just to trust that what they’re doing is working. “We do a lot of metrics gathering and we test all of our systems,” said Campbell. “We go back and review. We test some more. We continue to collect data to find out what’s working and what’s not working for teleworkers.”

With more than 80% of eligible positions at USPTO teleworking, even Campbell is impressed with the agency’s progress. “That’s huge. For any private or public sector organization.”

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