Telework is now the law of the land for federal agencies. Proponents say telework can do everything from boost productivity to reduce pollution, but establishing a telework policy involves confronting some risks.
The IBM Center for the Business of Government has just released a new telework study looking at how four agencies have already started teleworking, what worked well, and what didn’t.
Study author Dr. Scott Overmyer from the Center for Graduate Studies at Baker College told Federal News Radio the agencies are the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Overmyer said he picked those agencies “because they’re fairly diverse in the jobs that they perform and also their telework programs are probably the most mature.”
The one problem Overmyer said he found faced by the four agencies was management resistance. Not being able to make a leap of faith when it comes to managing employees when out of the office, said Overmyer, was “probably the primary difficulty that most of these agencies had in common.”
In order to overcome that resistance, telework needs top down support, training for managers and the right equipment, said Overmyer.
One problem more unique to the agencies used as case studies was DISA’s security concerns. Overmyer said the agency didn’t let those concerns get in the way of implementation. “They’ve done that successfully and continue to do so and continue to come up with new ways to support teleworkers operating in a secure way and protecting information.”
In fact, according to the study, that very “can do” approach to telework is one of the keys to DISA’s telework success.
Once the decision was made to have a telework program, it was implemented quickly. (DISA senior Human Resources specialist, Aaron) Glover suggests that organizations ” … either have a telework program or not.” In the case of DISA, it was decided to move ahead quickly rather than “over-analyze” the issue as one DISA staff member put it.
One of the major findings of the study, according to Overmyer, is that employees should be encouraged to use their own equipment. They know what they have. They’re comfortable with it and are able to be productive immediately. “You don’t have to demand GFE, Government Furnished Equipment, for every worker that does telework,” said Overmyer. If you mandate GFE, this does solve a lot of problems, so many agencies do, but others don’t depending on the sensitivity of the workload.