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Few eligible employees telework, OPM report says

Jul. 9, 2012 - 01:04PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Nancy Kichak, OPM's associate director of strategic human resource policy, announced the administration's new telework policy at an April 2009 news conference.
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Nancy Kichak, OPM's associate director of strategic human resource policy, announced the administration’s new telework policy at an April 2009 news conference. (Rob Curtis / Staff file photo)

About one in four eligible federal employees are teleworking, according to a federal report. And more than half of those telework two or fewer days per week.

The report by the Office of Personnel Management — the first since a 2010 law took effect that aims to boost telework — said, as of September 2011, there were 168,558 employees teleworking out of 684,589 deemed eligible to telework. That represents a 48 percent increase over the 113,946 teleworking employees reported in 2009, the last time the government surveyed its workforce on teleworking habits.

Of those who telework, 56 percent spend two or fewer days per week teleworking, while 27 percent telework three days or more each week. The remaining 17 percent either telework only when certain situations arise, or work at agencies that were unable to track frequency.

The 2010 Telework Enhancement Act did not set specific goals on how much agencies should increase teleworking, or how frequently employees should telework. It requires agencies to determine which employees are eligible to telework, notify them, and set a policy for them to telework. Agencies also must set up interactive training programs for employees and managers, designate high-ranking telework managing officers to set policies and report to each agency’s head, and incorporate teleworking into their continuity of operations (COOP) plans to keep them running during snowstorms or terrorist attacks.

Agencies have largely met those goals. The report said that as of last September:

• 73 percent of agencies have a policy in place that meets the telework bill’s requirements. Another 26 percent of agencies have a policy in place that does not meet the requirements, but are working to update their policies.

• 98 percent of agencies have either a permanent or acting telework managing officer.

• 75 agencies, which employ 99 percent of the federal workforce, have included telework in their continuity-of-operations plans.

• 86 percent of agencies have notified all their employees of their telework eligibility. Another 7 percent were in the process of notifying employees.

But only 144,851 employees — 21 percent of telework-eligible employees — had written agreements in place spelling out what is expected of the employee and manager when the employee teleworks. The report said that since more employees are teleworking than have written agreements, agencies may not be accurately tracking who has an agreement in place.

Some of the major agencies with the highest participation rates among eligible employees were:

• Patent and Trademark Office, 82 percent.

• General Services Administration, 59 percent.

• Treasury Department, 48 percent.

• Health and Human Services Department, 42 percent.

• Education Department, 41 percent.

Smaller agencies such as the Federal Labor Relations Authority, National Mediation Board, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board also reported that well over half their eligible employees telework.

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