Federal Telework Issues
Statement and Impact of the Problem:
Since 1999, U.S. federal agencies have been obligated by law to implement telework options for eligible employees as a cost-saving measure to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions (Read, 2009). However, compliance with the telework requirement has been substantially delayed and implemented insufficiently for the last decade. President Barack Obama has recognized the value of the initiative and has pledged to require greater compliance in order to achieve the envisioned benefits in addition to increasing the ability of the federal government to attract and retain quality
employees (Losey, 2008).
Prevailing perceptions among federal employees is that individual agency heads have excessive latitude to exempt employees from the program without cause or necessity (Liverhant, 2009). Stakeholders affected adversely by this circumstance include federal employees, federal tax payers, individuals reliant on federal agency services, and the general public.
The hesitancy to embrace telework has reduced the recruitment and retention of high-quality employees from enhancements to employees’ quality of life and has delayed any benefits in the form of a reduction in traffic congestion and energy consumption.
The desired outcome is simply for federal agencies to increase the number of employees able to use the telework opportunity to include at least 15% of those eligible, during the next fiscal year.
Final Recommendations for Alternative Strategies for a Solution:
The first suggested alternative strategy is to remove the authority of federal agency heads to decide arbitrarily that agency employees are exempt from the telework option requirement. Existing legislation allows agency heads to “determine” independently that the teleworking option should not be available to employees
(Liverhant, 2009). The criteria for this strategy are that it must: (1) solve a fundamental problem in policy implementation; (2) not be susceptible to contrary decisions at the agency level; and (3) provide a formal list of positions or vocational responsibilities that must be eligible for inclusion unless a specific case for their exclusion is filed and approved by the appropriate inspector general. No implementation issues are anticipated once the appropriate legislation is promulgated.
The second suggested alternative strategy is to require that federal agencies conduct mandatory telework awareness training for all federal employees and offer specific telework training for all eligible employees who wish to participate. The criteria for this strategy are that it must: (1) publicize the change effectively internally; (2)
include all eligible employees; and (3) inform federal employees how to address any difficulties encountered in applying for telework opportunities. No implementation issues are anticipated once the appropriate legislation is promulgated.
The third suggested alternative strategy is to publicize the change effectively externally to increase federal recruitment. The criteria for this strategy are that it: (1)
effectively increase public awareness of the policy; (2) provide comprehensive information sufficient to achieve its objective; and (3) exploit multiple communications media. The only conceivable implementation issue with regard to this strategy is the difficulty associated with adapting existing media and communications systems available within the federal system to the continually evolving technologies and social trends in their use.
Liverhant, C. (2009). Telephone interview conducted on April 13, 2009 with former U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (Federal
Region II) Writer/Editor.
Losey, S. (2008). “Obama to Expand Benefits, Unionize TSA, Curb Outsourcing, Review
Pay Reform” (11/5/08). Retrieved April 14, 2009, from the FederalTimes.com database, at: http://www.federaltimes.com/index.php?S=3805591
Read, B. (2009). “Federal Government Employee Telework Bills Introduced, Praised”
(3/26/09). Retrieved April 14, 2009 from TMCnet.com Politics & technology database, at: