About a fifth of federal employees telework, but about another fifth are “part-time mobile workers,” plugging into the office through laptops, smartphones and other remote access devices as needed, according to a survey of agency information technology professionals.
The poll of 152 IT workers was conducted in February by the Telework Exchange, a consortium that promotes telework whose sponsors include businesses that sell devices and services for use in working remotely.
The respondents estimated that 21 percent of federal employees are teleworkers, a figure in line with results of government-wide employee surveys taken in 2010 and 2011. But in those surveys, most of those who identified themselves as teleworkers said they work at home or at other sites away from the office no more than one or two days per month.
The most recent count by the Office of Personnel Management, released in early 2011 and covering 2009, showed that only about 6 percent of federal workers telecommute. That report attributed the differences in figures to the varying approaches, with the employee survey reflecting different individual views on what constitutes telework.
The new survey of IT professionals said that apart from teleworkers, 22 percent of federal employees are part-time mobile workers, connecting remotely at least once every two weeks while they are away for travel, off-site meetings or other reasons.
It added that employees who telework commonly bear much of the expense for Internet, printing, phone and other related costs. About three-fifths of agencies do not reimburse employees for such expenses, and many agencies that do reimburse employees pay only part of the cost, the respondents said.
The government has a long-standing telework program, but resistance by managers and factors such as technical and security issues have been blamed for holding down participation rates. A law enacted in 2010 created a general presumption that employees are eligible to telework unless their jobs fall under certain exceptions, such as security-related work or occupations that require presence at an assigned site.
In the new survey, 59 percent of respondents said they expect an increase in regular teleworkers over the next two years and 45 percent said they expect an increase in part-time mobile work.