The Congressional Research Service’s December survey shows that while some agencies have scored big on telework, others are just not there yet.
Despite the problems some agencies are having, a majority of them are moving forward on telework adoption and growth. In fact, in addition to the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, a recent executive order and presidential memorandum have provided plenty of momentum for the telework movement. Plus, telework plays a critical role in maintaining an operational and resilient government, solidifying the federal government as a top place to work and supporting returning veterans who are entering the workforce.
It is difficult to implement an enterprisewide program, and any change of this magnitude requires cultural and technological adjustments.
Managers — senior leaders first and then middle managers — must be on board. Mobile technology will make telework programs a success, and agencies that haven’t implemented this technology are holding themselves back. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, General Services Administration, Defense Information Systems Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Department of Agriculture did not get to the top by luck. It took time, management buy-in and the right technology.
Agencies striving to implement an effective enterprise telework program should consider several important management, technological and policy steps.
Management Is Critical
An agency looking to establish its telework program should bring IT, senior management, union and human capital officials together to build a program that supports the agency’s mission. These additional management steps will help foster telework growth:
- Determining how the agency will use telework as a tool and how telework will meet the agency’s mission. It’s also important to explore how it will help the agency to remain efficient and resilient, to recruit and retain excellent employees, and even to reduce real estate needs.
- Surveying managers and employees regarding managerial and cultural practices and inventory IT components. Develop a model to show how telework will provide a return on the agency’s investment.
- Focusing on work output and throwing out the “desk” mentality. Work is what you do, not where you do it. Focusing on time and attendance is an outdated practice and will not help managers measure productive employees.
Important IT Considerations
Agencies are using notebook computers, virtual private networks, virtual desktops, smartphones, and collaboration and video technology to enable remote workers. Take these additional steps to provide IT support to your agency’s program:
- Not viewing teleworkers as outsiders. Rather, consider all employee needs when making IT decisions. Across the board, it is important to make cost-effective IT investments that support collaboration and open, yet secure, network access for your entire mobile workforce.
- Equipping all employees with technology to enable mobility. This will ensure that you have a resilient workforce and maintain seamless operations during any business disruptions.
- Considering the implementation of a “bring your own device” policy. Several agencies are giving BYOD a try. Letting employees use personal devices such as notebooks, tablets and smartphones for work can provide benefits that outweigh the security risks.
Focus on Policy
Agencies that give employees the option to telework should let them telework. These other policy steps can also help a telework program:
- Understanding that telework is a change for everyone. Both managers and employees must have training.
- Building in performance reviews. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires that managers measure all employees equally. This will ensure that managers have direct conversations about performance with employees.
- Marketing your program internally and externally. Focus on highlighting success stories, and educate all employees and managers.
Consider programs such as Telework Week or other telework drills to stress-test your IT systems and take a temperature check among managers and employees. Now is the time to move from telework ready, to telework in action.