December 26, 2017 at 6:00 AM
Question: How does the government decide who gets to telework and when? It seems so random.
Answer: It’s not supposed to be. A 2010 law set standards for telework eligibility, with a presumption that employees are eligible unless they fall into one of its exceptions. Those exceptions mostly apply to public-facing jobs, or those involved in patient care, law enforcement, security and other duties that require presence at the workplace.
However, it’s up to each agency to decide, so are variations among them — and in many cases employees deemed ineligible think their jobs are suitable for it.
A report issued this month shows that in 2016 about 42 percent of federal employees are designated as eligible to telework, up from 33 percent in 2011. But of those, only about half — 22 percent of the entire workforce — actually had teleworked during the year.
Also making telework look random is that the most common form of telework is what the government calls “situational,” allowing it, for example, when employees are working on certain projects (situational telework also happens during weather-related closings). Another tenth of teleworkers do it no more than once a month, although a third do it three or more days biweekly.