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OPM shows rise in feds eligible to telework

Dec. 20, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By MICHAEL HARDY   |   Comments

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The number of federal employees eligible to telework increased dramatically from 2011 to 2012, according to a new report from the Office of Personnel Management.

The number rose from 684,589 to 1,020,034, according to OPM, a 49 percent increase. Meanwhile, the number of employees with telework agreements also rose, from 144,851 to 267,227, or 85 percent. Measured another way, the percentage of employees with telework agreements increased from 21 percent of the number eligible to 26 percent.

The systematic effort to increase federal telework has its roots in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, although some groups had been pushing for it for years before the law. Telework is held to be a source of cost savings, through reduced need for real estate and energy, more productivity and less absenteeism. However, making it happen within agencies on a large scale has proved to be difficult.

Implementing the Act’s requirements “has meant a fundamental shift in how agency stakeholders have traditionally viewed and developed telework – from simply a flexibility option exercised by individuals to an organizational change program with specific advantages to the organization,” reads the OPM report. “While the focus is increasingly on agency benefits, we emphasize that the change initiative represented by telework can only be successful to the extent that employee well-being is sustained through participation in these programs.”

"The federal government has come a long way since we started in 2005," said Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, in a statement. "OPM's latest data proves strong interest, momentum, and value in these programs.”

Earlier this week, Global Workplace Analytics released an analysis suggesting that the government could save nearly $14 billion a year through well-executed telework programs. OPM’s report confirms that many agencies are reporting savings, but others are struggling to figure out how to measure cost effects.

The 258-page OPM report includes extensive analysis of progress and challenges to telework, case studies and extensive charts documenting agency progress.

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