Telework: What Federal Employees Should Know

Apr 25, 2018


Telework is a subject that has mixed reviews, and because of that, federal employees are hearing many mixed messages. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires agencies to create a telework plan, fulfill certain requirements, and encourage the use of the program.

The Office of Personnel Management conducted a work-life study that determined employees who take advantage of remote working opportunities are more likely to perform at higher levels and be happier in their jobs than those who don’t telework. Still, the Department of Agriculture rolled back remote work opportunities for more than 32,000 employees.

Below are a few common questions about telework.

Who Has the Ultimate Telework Authority?

OPM doesn’t have much power over remote work. It provides policy guidance and consultation to agencies. They also assist agencies in establishing goals, but they can’t dictate remote work policy to any agency.

The agencies themselves have more authority because they decide the range of possibilities for employees. They decide which positions are eligible for telework and those schedules. Agencies are also responsible for ensuring employees and managers complete telework training programs.

Further, they designate a Telework Managing Officer and ensure every worker has a written agreement outlining their specific plan. A TMO is a person within the agency who is accountable for the telework program. This person advises agency leadership and acts as OPM’s point of contact on remote work matters. They also set goals and metrics that measure the success of the program.

What Do Supervisors Have Control Over?

Direct authority over employee individual telework agreements lies with the employees’ supervisor. While OPM’s guidance and provisions laid out in the Telework Enhancement Act apply uniformly to all agencies, at the employee level, the ability to work from where you want is considered a privilege and is handled on a case by case basis.

Working remote is entirely voluntary so supervisors can’t force anyone to participate. Supervisors have the final say over whether an employee can work from home and they are also responsible for making sure teleworking employees are meeting their productivity requirements. Some agencies developed tools that can monitor a workers activity to ensure the employee isn’t abusing the program.

Supervisors can also suspend or terminate an employee telework agreement if they think the program is having an adverse effect on the employee or the organization performance.

What if You’re Denied?

When a manager officially denies an employee the option to work from home, they must do so in writing, explain the reason for denial and they must include any appeals or grievance procedures. The employee can also contact a telework coordinator, who is responsible for routine implementation of remote work at their agency.

Training Requirements?

Employees are required to complete telework training courses if they wish to participate. Managers must also undergo training. OPM makes courses and webcasts available for employees and managers to use in their training, including subjects like telework fundamentals, performance management, dependent care, and how to stay connected to the office.

The management training covers designing a remote work program and effectively supervising remote employees.

These training courses seem great, however, a Government Accountability Office study found that 3 of the 4 agencies it looked at had no tool for verifying management had completed its training, nor did they require managers to complete the remote work training before approving or denying employee telework requests.

So, Does Telework Have a Positive or Negative Impact?

An OPM report found teleworking employees are more likely to receive an “exceeds fully successful” rating than those who don’t. In addition, those who work from where they want were significantly more satisfied with their job.

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