Federal employees started learning Tuesday whether they are eligible to work from home, six months after President Obama signed legislation expanding the use of telework across the federal government.
“As far as we can tell, nearly all” federal agencies and departments started informing workers of their eligibility Tuesday as required by the new law, according to Justin Johnson, the Office of Personnel Management’s deputy chief of staff.
“There’s no one telework policy, everyone has the freedom to develop a policy that helps them deliver their results,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday.
Legislation signed by Obama last year requires federal agencies to develop policies allowing eligible employees to work remotely and to include telework options in emergency contingency plans. Several government positions — including law enforcement officers, park rangers, lab technicians and medical doctors and nurses — are exempt because of the nature of their positions.
The Obama administration and employee organizations pushed for the work-from-home option, citing potential cost savings and the environmental benefits of curtailing worker commutes. Unions note that the government saved about $30 million from employees who worked from home during last year’s historic Washington-area snowstorms.
The change in law has produced an increase in teleworking, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Telework Exchange, a group that promotes teleworking and whose members include companies that sell equipment and services for use in teleworking.
In an online survey conducted in late May of telework managing officers in agencies, 86 percent said that telework participation increased in the last six months.
The report also said that 32 percent of federal employees telework, counting both regular and “situational” teleworking, in which employees receive permission to work off-site on an as-needed basis.
The most recent OPM report on teleworking, however, showed that only 6 percent of all federal employees telework, as defined by having a formal agreement in place defining the terms of the arrangement. Separately, a survey conducted last year by OPM showed that 22 percent of federal employees said they telework at least to some extent.
Two-thirds of telework managers said the program is making a very significant positive impact on employee job satisfaction, but most could not say the same about productivity, employee performance, energy use or recruiting and retention. The main challenges to the telework program include finding ways to measure its results, drumming up management support and providing workers with the technology needed to work remotely, the report said.
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