New legislation, recently introduced, sets a goal of increasing telework participation among federal agencies and their employees.
“Instead of instituting mindless, sweeping bans on telework participation, agencies should be expanding teleworking options. Telework is supposed to be a tool for promoting government efficiency, performance, and emergency preparedness,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), one of the bill’s sponsors.
The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 6551), introduced by Connolly and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.), sets goals which are designed to foster greater use of telework among federal employees. Here, the definition of telework would be classified to include full-time telework.
Agencies would be required to set annual goals for telework participation as part of their agency telework policy. The Congressman said that goals be a part of the agency telework plan in hopes it would improve agency goal setting and reporting.
Tracking Telework Cost Savings
The Office of Personnel Management would be required to establish uniform guidance for agencies on how to collect information on, set goals for, and report cost savings achieved through telework. Agencies will be required to set goals for and report on cost savings achieved through telework. Finally, OPM would be required to include in its annual report, a plan to keep government telework participation above a floor of 22%.
Stopping Telework Bans
Agencies would be prohibited from instituting agency-wide bans on any category of telework (1-2 days per pay period, 3 or more days per pay period, etc.). They would also be required to notify OPM and Congress of any plans to reduce telework. The agency must justify the reduction and explain how it will pay for any lost cost savings.
Fighting Against Telework Restrictions
Part of the reason for this legislation is to counter efforts by agencies to clamp down on teleworking. Cited as one example is the new telework policy at the Department of Education. One of the provisions of that new policy is a requirement that employees who telework must be in the office at least 4 days per week. It also said supervisors were now prohibited from granting requests for 100% telework.
Not all agree that telework is a great thing. A 2017 report issued by Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.) highlighted telework abuse at the Department of Labors’ Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. It showed employees there were frequently abusing the telework policy by over-reporting their work hours, something Lankford said likely contributed to a large backlog of Workers’ Compensation claims.