What is telework?
Public Law 111-292, also known as the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, describes telework as "a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee's position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work."
Additionally, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) adds that telework (also known as telecommuting and flexible workplace) "is a work arrangement that allows an employee to perform work, during any part of regular, paid hours, at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., home, telework center). This definition of telework includes what is generally referred to as remote work but does not include any part of work done while on official travel or mobile work."
What are the different types of telework?
OPM identifies two types of telework: routine and situational. Routine telework occurs as part of an ongoing, regular schedule, while situational telework is approved on a case-by-case basis, where the hours worked were NOT part of a previously approved, ongoing and regular telework schedule. Examples of situational telework include telework as a result of inclement weather, doctor appointment, or special work assignments, and is sometimes also referred to as situational, episodic, intermittent, unscheduled, or ad-hoc telework.
When is an employee eligible to telework?
Public Law 106-346 (FY 2001 Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act), Section 359 defines an eligible employee as "any satisfactorily performing employee of the agency whose job may typically be performed at least one day per week at an alternative workplace."
Each Federal agency sets up its own eligibility process, but typically the immediate supervisor decides whether an employee can work off-site, depending on the nature of the position and the characteristics of the employee.
Ideal position characteristics include work that requires thinking and writing, telephone-intensive tasks, and computer-oriented tasks. Positions that require the employee’s physical presence on the job, including face-to-face contact with supervisors or other employees, contact with clients or the public, or positions that require access to highly sensitive materials or material that cannot be moved from the regular office may not be suitable for telework.
Ideal employee characteristics include the ability to work without regular monitoring/supervision, independently identify required work deliverables, successfully plan work production schedules, effectively meet deadlines, and possess proficiency in basic computer tasks.
What are the benefits of telework?
In September 2008, the U.S. General Services Administration and Mobile Work Exchange (then Telework Exchange) released a whitepaper describing the multiple benefits telework provides to the Federal Government, other public sector organizations, the private sector, the individual employee, and the community.
I want to telework, where do I begin?
If you are interested in telework, speak with your agency Telework Coordinator. The Telework Coordinator can help you determine the most appropriate course of action within your agency. Under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, all teleworke participants must successfully complete telework training and sign a telework agreement between supervisor and employee. This agreement is written so everyone has a clear understanding of the program parameters, including the telework schedule and site, as well as work to be completed. This agreement may also include a list of items your agency is willing to provide for the employee such as additional phone lines, office connectivity, a computer, software, or a printer.
The Mobile Work Exchange website has a few features that can help you learn about telework, including the Online Eligibility Gizmo and telework calculators to help you calculate your telework eligibility and potential savings. Take a few minutes to check out the tools and see how you could benefit from telework.
Below please find a few links to help you in your search for a telework position. Our “Telework Employment” page includes links to a variety of Web sites posting telework positions. We have also included links to both the CareerBuilder and Monster work from home Web sites. As with any job search, we recommend you sift through the jobs on Career Builder and Monster carefully to ensure they are legitimate telework opportunities. We hope these links help you in your search for a telework position and wish you the best of luck.
Telework can provide many opportunities and benefits for disabled workers, yet there is work to be done to ensure this is recognized by Federal agencies. Mobile Work Exchange recently conducted a study titled, “Unnecessary Barriers”, which examines Federal managers' attitudes toward and performance against mandates to hire Americans with disabilities. The report finds Feds are not supporting their claims with action regarding efforts to hire, retain, and effectively manage employees with disabilities.
Additional whitepapers, articles, and tools related to telework opportunities for disabled workers can be found in the Mobile Work Exchange Resource Center.
I supervise a teleworker, how can I monitor work performance when the employee is not physically present?
Managers can measure what the employee produces by examining the product or results of the employee's efforts. It is also helpful to use project schedules, key milestones, regular status reports, and team reviews.
OPM notes performance standards for teleworking employees should be the same as those for non-teleworking employees. Clear expectations should be set and discussed before the employee begins teleworking.
According to a Mobile Work Exchange and Federal Managers Association research study, “Face to Face with Management Reality”, management resistance is the number one barrier to telework adoption. The study reveals that the more engaged a manager is with telework (either teleworking themselves or managing teleworkers), the more likely he or she is to support telework.
If your manager is not quite ready to test the telework waters, here are a few resources you can share:
There are telework centers and remote-work facilities located across the nation, equipped with all materials necessary to work from a remote location including: computers, secure servers, Internet accessibility, phone lines, conference rooms, printers, and technical support to name a few. A full list of telework centers is available here.
What are the proven technology offerings available to teleworkers?
In October 2008, Mobile Work Exchange, Avaya Federal Solutions, Polycom, and Verizon released a report providing an overview of proven technology products and services available for teleworkers.
How is information and data secured when teleworking?
In 2002, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published its Special Security Publication 800-46, for Telecommuting and Broadband Communications. This publication reviews the threats and vulnerabilities, and recommends countermeasures to ensure secure and effective teleworking.
Additionally, over the past two decades the industry has developed innovative Internet and computer security solutions to reduce the risk of a cyber attack. Commercial firewalls, encryption, anti-virus and scam, automated software updates, and backup solutions give organizations the tools they need to deploy secure teleworking programs.
Mobile Work Exchange hosted a Webcast on August 10 on protecting remote workers. For more information about this event, please click here. Recently, Mobile Work Exchange hosted a Webcast on this topic and discussed steps to ensure teleworkers are properly trained and prepared to work in a remote environment. The Webcast includes best practices for setting up a secure network for teleworkers, how to address the challenges of a mobile workforce, and management strategies for successful implementations of a secure telework network including Internet reimbursement and training. The Webcast materials can be downloaded here.
Additional resources include:
To our knowledge, there is not one source or guidance issued that provides a governmentwide work-related reimbursement policy. Rather, each government agency is responsible for defining its own policies. A portion of legislation that enables agencies to use appropriated funds to install and fund telephone lines and/or other equipment in the homes of employees authorized to work at home is below. Telework.gov provides additional details about specific telework legislation here.
Links to specific agency reimbursement policies are included below:
Telework plays an integral role in business continuity plans as it enables the government to continue working in the face of an unexpected emergency. Mobile Work Exchange has conducted a number of research studies related to telework and Continuity of Operations (COOP).
We have also archived a series of Webcasts on our Web site on this topic. We have included a number of these resources below:
Additional resources for managers can be found in the Mobile Work Exchange Resource Center.
How has Federal telework progressed since legislation first passed in November, 1995?
For more than 20 years, Federal government officials have been discussing telework options, alternatives, and strategies. Only in the past five years have technology, traffic, and talent converged to make these concepts a reality for many government employees, managers, and their constituents. Please review the Telework Milestones for additional details.
Where does the telework bill stand in Congress? Does the bill include any government funding?
President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 on December 9, 2010. The U.S. Senate passed the final version of the legislation by unanimous consent on September 29, 2010 and the House passed it with a bipartisan vote of 254-152 on November 18, 2010.
The bill requires each executive agency to establish a policy under which employees may be authorized to telework to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee performance or agency operations. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), General Service Administration (GSA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide oversight and management support to Federal agencies.
Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced the Telework Improvements Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) in March 2009. At the same time in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced a companion bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and George Voinovich (R-OH). On May 24 the Senate passed the Telework Enhancement Act (S. 707) by unanimous consent. The bill grants Federal employees eligibility to telework and requires Federal agencies to establish telework policies and designate a Telework Managing Officer.
Next, the legislation goes before a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences between the two bills.
There is no language in the bill that specifically addresses House funding of telework programs, besides a very small portion, which includes travel expenses for test programs.
More information about the bill can found here.
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) deals with 'telecommuting' and 'contractors'. Ultimately, each government contract must consider and evaluate the best 'place of performance' for meeting the specified requirement, in the most efficient and cost effective manner. The resulting terms and conditions of a contract need to include specifics on 'place of performance,' including such things as whether the 'contractor' or the 'government' is responsible to provide the necessary tools (e.g., computer, phone, etc.) to perform the duties of the contract.
There are several laws that have been enacted within the last 10 years that are intended to increase telework among the Federal workforce. One that specifically references contractors is Public Law 108-136, Section 1428 of the Defense Authorization Act. This law states, "Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council shall amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to permit telecommuting by employees of Federal government contractors in the performance of contracts entered into with executive agencies."
For more information and details on how government contractors can telework see a past issue of The Teleworker.
At this time, the main focus of Mobile Work Exchange's initiatives is in the Federal government space. While the majority of our information and events do tend to highlight some of the larger Federal organizations, we also work with many state and local organizations to obtain a well-rounded view of telework initiatives. We are now beginning to see more and more of state/local agencies jumpstarting their telework programs. A few resources both on our Web site and from some of our past events featuring state and local representatives can be found below:
At this time, there is no pending legislation that we are aware of that addresses a government initiative to regulate or define a carbon footprint for corporations. However, the U.S. House of Representatives did pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) on June 26, 2009 which calls for reducing U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. To do this, the government will establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it will require electric utilities to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources by 2020. Meeting emissions quotas, buying and selling emissions permits, finding alternative energy sources - these all qualify as "material" risks to a company's earnings and may require publicly-traded companies to report their carbon emissions as material risks under U.S. securities law. A great resource regarding emission credits can be found here.
Telework certainly plays a vital role in helping companies reduce their carbon footprint. Not only does telework provide employees with greater work/life balance, but it also provides employers with many benefits including increases in recruitment and retention to significant real-estate savings. Specific carbon-emissions statistics from our research finds that if all eligible Federal employees teleworked two days per week, the Federal workforce would collectively save $3.3 billion and 2.7 million tons of pollutants annually. Further, a joint Mobile Work Exchange and GSA whitepaper reports that if 33 million Americans worked from home, Gulf oil imports could be reduced by 24 percent to 48 percent, greenhouse gases reduced by up to 67 million metric tons a year, and consumption of as much as 7.5 trillion gallons of gasoline would be saved each year, for a total of $110 million in savings a day.
While our research on specific health benefits of teleworking is limited, we have found a few resources that may provide insight on the topic. The most beneficial resource included below is Janice Nolen's (Assistant Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy at the American Lung Association) keynote address at the Fall 2009 Town Hall Meeting. She discussed the health impacts of teleworking and provided a health perspective to the telework conversation. We have also included news articles and other materials that address the health impacts of telecommuting.