“Telework is a well-accepted business strategy and a large part of our culture,” said Danette R. Campbell, the agency’s senior telework adviser. “Managers realize the positive impact this strategy has on real estate cost-avoidance, production, recruiting and retaining a highly skilled workforce, and continuity of operations.”
That’s not always true across government.
Certainly, many jobs are not compatible with working from home. Nonetheless, government-wide figures reflect a continuing and unnecessary reluctance by supervisors who believe they can’t manage those they can’t see.
“For many managers, reluctance to allow telework is rooted in uncertainty about managing individual performance,” said Justin Johnson, OPM’s deputy chief of staff. “Telework requires a new mind-set, and it changes the dynamics of the work and the workplace in ways that not everyone feels competent to manage. All managers need to get more comfortable with managing by results rather than process and time in the office.”
On paper, teleworking plans look good.
In the report’s introduction, OPM Director John Berry said agencies representing more than 99 percent of the federal workforce have included telework “as a critical component of their agency Continuity of Operations Plans,” which would be used to keep the government operating “through hazardous weather, pandemic or physical attacks that would result in the closure of Government buildings.”
“Telework can make employees more efficient, more accountable, and more resilient in emergency conditions,” Berry wrote in the report.
But a long-standing problem remains: “Not all managers are comfortable directing employees who telework,” he added.
The telework law was designed to foster a more consistent and systematic program for government telecommuting. Yet the amount of telework varies significantly from agency to agency. Some of that is because of the nature of the work, and some is because of managerial resistance.