Top federal telework issues of 2011

By Michael O’Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

The end of the year is around the corner and that means we’re taking a look back at the top issues impacting the federal government in 2011.

In 2010, the Federal Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law, so this year the focus for many federal agencies was to figure out how to make that law a reality.

“Agencies had about 180 days to get their policies and framework up to start,” said Cindy Auten, general manager at the Telework Exchange. She joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris with a look at the top issues of teleworking at federal agencies.

Also in 2010, the Office of Personnel Management had enacted a policy on unscheduled telework, and this year was the first chance that federal employees could take advantage of it. “It really shows the signficance of making telework and business continuity really two sides of the same coin,” Auten said.

Environmental factors contributed to the challenge of adopting an effective strategy. The recent earthquake and hurricane preparedness demonstrated the need for the federal government policy toward telework be resilient. Likewise, February’s Snowmaggedon streesed the need for an effective policy.

“It was a call for agencies to say ‘we need to figure out how we’re operational,'” Auten said, “and telework is a logical solution.”

Alleviating traffic is also a consideration, Auten said. She pointed to the the Defense Department’s upcoming move to the Mark Center in Alexandria as an opportunity to address traffic concerns with a strong telework strategy. As part of the Base Realignment and Closure, the DoD will be moving thousands of employees to the new building on Interstate 395 in 2012, but parking has been limited to just 2,000 slots.

“I think next year we’ll see a lot of telework movement in the DoD because there’s going to have to be something they have to do in that area,” she said. “Trafffic is just going to get worse.”

Auten acknowledged that agencies will continue to face challenges as they try to adopt telework. “It’s a cultural change,” she said. “It’s changing the way where you work and it’s changing how managers manage.”

For those managers who measure an employee’s productiveness by whether or not they’re at the office, telework is a major shift in mindset.

Agencies will also need to come up with ways to measure and analyze their telework program to ensure that they’re getting the proper return on investment. “Before the bill became a law, they could count how many people were teleworking, that was about it,” Auten said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of requirements. Now they’re really having to look at how is telework impacting their agency mission.”

The adoption of new technology, such as mobile devices and cloud computing, have helped to advance the cause of telework. “Technology, we say, is really blazing the trail for telework adoption,” she said. “It’s allowed people to be mobile and productive, but you also have to take into consideration that you have to be secure.”

This issue of data security goes beyond telework, Auten said. “All employees need to be able to understand how do they handle that data, what type of devices that they use and is the technology secure,” she said.


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