Federal employees that have taken advantage of telework opportunities, work schedule flexibility and health programs were likely to be more satisfied with their jobs and to exceed standards on their last performance appraisal, a report released March 6, 2018, determined.

According to the Office of Personnel Management’s first Federal Work-Life Survey, which included responses from 64,474 federal employees, only 35 percent of respondents said that they currently use telework, but those that do reported an increased desire to stay at their agency, improved morale, better health and an enhanced ability to deal with work stress.

Respondents also reported that telework helped them to minimize distractions and increase productivity, with 75 percent of non-supervisors and 63 percent of supervisors saying that telework improved their overall performance.

However, supervisors had less confidence in telework improving the quality of work produced by employees they manage. While 96 percent of employees reported a desire to use work-life programs, only approximately half of supervisors agreed that telework supports performance improvement and enables them to manage and assess the performance of their employees.

“Lack of awareness of program availability among all employees is a primary barrier to program participation. The lack of perceived supervisory support for programs may be a contributing factor. Increased program awareness and a greater understanding on how to strategically use programs to support organizational and employee needs may help overcome this barrier,” then-acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan wrote of the results.

This lack of perceived oversight may also be why only 47 percent of respondents reported positive supervisory support for work-life programs and one-third said that they have little to no flexibility in their work-life schedules.

And an overwhelming number of employees said that their professional and personal lives have a tendency to interfere with each other.

However, according to McGettigan, a commitment to these flexibilities is proven to improve recruitment, retention and employee morale.

“OPM’s analysis indicates a significant relationship between participation in work-life programs and optimal organizational performance, retention and job satisfaction,” McGettigan wrote.

“These outcomes emphasize the value of work-life programs as strategic tools that support organizational effectiveness. At the same time, there are opportunities for improvement through expanding support and reducing barriers to utilizing these programs.”

OPM committed itself to six work-life improvement action items as a result of the survey:

  1. Create governmentwide training and toolkit for federal supervisors and leaders on the value and specifics of work-life programs.
  2. Develop information for work-life coordinators on how to develop, implement and evaluate their programs using metrics for each of the main work-life program areas — dependent care, health and wellness, telework and employee assistance programs. OPM will highlight how metrics can be used to track program usage and cost-benefits.
  3. Develop a comprehensive communications and marketing template for each work-life program area.
  4. Continue to highlight and share agency work-life best practices through OPM-hosted forums and webinars.
  5. Develop work-life program policy templates.
  6. Provide a guide highlighting agency work-life promising practices by program area: telework, employee assistance programs, health and wellness, and dependent care.

OPM also encouraged federal agencies to evaluate their work-life programs and consider ways to improve managerial support and employee awareness for those programs.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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