The great telework debate continues today with the release of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The rankings assess employee satisfaction in every nook and cranny of the federal government, and also offer a glimpse at general labor trends and the changing needs of workers.
Looking into the specifics of the survey, it’s clear that one of the perks that give an agency an edge in popularity is a worker’s ability to telework, a topic I wrote about earlier this week that drew a strong response.
Both in public and private employment, teleworking options are exploding. In general, about 60 percent of American companies now offer the option in some form to some workers according to the Society for Human Resource Management, which regularly surveys employer benefits.
In the federal government telework, defined as ranging “from unscheduled/short-term telework to working offsite several days per week,” was this year offered to one out of every three employees. That’s up from one out of four last year.
Some agencies, such as the General Services Administration and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, had as many as 80 percent of employees teleworking for some stretch this year.
Other agencies, like the The National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and Office of Personnel Management weren’t far behind.
Not surprisingly, telework options lead to significantly higher scores on employee satisfaction.
That said, the response to my earlier post on a new study suggesting that telework can complicate work-life balance revealed that many employees have mixed feelings about teleworking.
“I do get to telework and at first I was very excited, but it does end up being stressful, trying to make sure I am ‘available’ if needed and that I work the right amount of hours. Unfortunately, I find that family and friends think working at home means I’m available for them, so that seeps into my work time,” one reader wrote in response to news that University of Texas at Austin researchers had concluded that telework, or telecommuting, often causes more stress than it relieves.
The survey found that teleworkers work, on average, more hours than office-workers and often allow their work to bleed into their family time.
Another reader agreed, “I telecommuted for six years and found quickly that unless you work at it, you never leave home, and you never leave work.”
Many other commenters praised the option, pointing out that is saves commuting time and pollution and also allows them flexibility when a child is sick or an emergency arises.
The key, the happy teleworkers said, was to stick to certain procedures to make sure work time is focused and contained.
I pulled out some of their advice here:
●Have a dedicated room with a door that can be closed, and that contains everything you need for your work.
●Do not share the house with small children. They should be in a daycare/ with a babysitter / at school. As one reader wrote, “children do not respect boundaries.”(I can attest to this as I am writing right now while my sick daughter is behind me banging on a drum singing Jingle Bell Rock.)
● The option is best if you are self-disciplined and okay without human company.
● Set work hours. At the end of the workday, turn off the computer and send work calls to voicemail.
● Recognize that the benefit might inhibit the ability to obtain promotions and/or choice assignments.
●And, I’ll add my own: Ignore Facebook.
Do you telework? Why and what’s your strategy?