Improving Federal Telework Participation and Current Telework Activity
As prepared for delivery.
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Voinovich, and Members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the invitation to appear before you today to discuss the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) view on improving Federal Telework participation and current telework activity. GSA’s partnership with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on the Governmentwide Telework Program is very active and well documented.
After more than 15 years of continuing efforts to build a robust and vital Federal telework program, levels of participation are still not as high as we believe they can and should be. Successful implementation of telework in the Federal Government involves culture change and pro-active senior leadership, along with useful policies, implementation guidance, program support, best practices, and effective tools. Over this timeframe, GSA and OPM have worked continuously with other Federal agencies to identify and provide the needed guidance and tools.
Legislation that would remove barriers to Federal Telework is welcomed, and we look forward to working with Congress on appropriate telework legislation. One legislative area that might also be addressed is travel pay associated with long distance telework, that is telework from locations beyond the local commuting area of the employing organization's facility where the employee would work but for the telework arrangement. Under existing law, such telework arrangements typically require an increase in agency travel expenses; since the telework location is the employee’s official duty station for pay and travel purposes. Thus, if an agency occasionally requires an employee to report to the employing organization’s facility, the agency must pay for the travel to and from the facility since it is travel away from the employee’s official duty station – even though the need for travel results from the employee’s personal choice of a telework site. These travel costs serve as a disincentive to establishing such arrangements. Making the payment of such travel expenses optional could help agencies with their efforts to retain valued employees and remove a barrier to the expansion of telework in the Federal Government.
Last year, GSA published Federal Management Regulation (FMR) Bulletin 2006-B3, which established guidelines for agencies implementing and operating alternative workplace arrangements in the Federal sector. This first-of-its-kind guidance helps agencies resolve commonly encountered telework implementation issues, such as the provision of workplace equipment to teleworkers, and the payment of utility costs for alternative worksites.
In order to provide an alternative to home-based telework, GSA has established 14 telework centers to provide alternative workplaces for those employees who cannot or prefer not to work at home. These centers, located in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, are established in convenient locations for use by employees who can reduce their traditional commutes by working at a center near their homes.
We believe there is a market for center-based telework and, in fact, I am a long-time user of our Fairfax center. Over the years, GSA has run several “free trial” promotions to attract new users to the telework centers, including the recent promotion for Federal managers. GSA’s goal is to facilitate culture change by giving managers the actual experience of telework. To date, we have 40 managers signed up for the program.
Technology has often been cited as a barrier to increased telework in the Federal Government. GSA conducted two in-depth studies on this topic and published important and useful findings which will help agencies increase their telework participation. The study findings are based on survey and other information from agency chief information officers, managers, teleworkers, telework coordinators, and other involved in telework programs.
Some highlights from the research are:
In short, no IT issue is of such a degree that it is a barrier to the growth of telework implementation and there are solutions to address perceived barriers. These studies are readily available on our website at http://www.gsa.gov/telework. There has been widespread interest in the incorporation of telework as a mechanism for emergency Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plans. This is a natural benefit of telework, but you cannot wait until an emergency to implement a COOP telework program. Federal Agencies must have a viable telework program in place as part of a normal operation plan so that employees may fully transition to this alternative work arrangement in the event of an emergency. The result would be a more well trained and properly equipped work force that is allowed to participate in telework to the maximum extent possible.
Other valuable telework applications include:
Finally, GSA’s Position is that to facilitate the necessary culture change, it is important to ensure that the entire workforce be made aware of telework laws, policies, benefits and practices. To that end, our efforts include a very active listserv and website along with videos, promotion materials, press releases, and beneficial partnerships with advocacy organizations.
In conclusion, GSA’s goals of improving the growth of Federal telework requires pro-active top level leadership; strong policy mandates and clear guidelines; increased program support and integration of telework into overall agency planning; increased demonstration and utilization of telework applications and recommended practices; and high visibility program promotion.
I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Following is additional information and detail in support of our testimony.
GSA EXAMPLE OF THE VALUE OF POLICY CLARIFICATION
A case study example of the importance of clear and strong policies for telework comes from an Inspector General audit of our GSA telework program. Our Chief Human Capital Office (CHCO) requested the audit. Briefly, the auditors found that:
Our CHCO agreed with the auditor findings and is implementing corrective actions such as policy revisions; training for managers, coordinators, participants; improved process for tracking; and a Telework “Campaign” for the entire agency.
LOCATIONS OF FEDERAL TELEWORK CENTERS
MARYLAND : Bowie State University Telecommuting Center (Bowie State University); Frederick Telework Center (Frederick, MD); Hagerstown Telework Center (Hagerstown, MD); Prince Frederick Telework Center (Prince Frederick, MD); Waldorf InTeleWork Center (Waldorf, MD); Laurel Lakes Telework Center (Laurel, MD)
VIRGINIA : Fairfax City Telework Center (Fairfax, VA); Herndon Telework Center (Herndon, VA); Manassas Telework Center (Manassas, VA); Fredericksburg Telework Center (Fredericksburg, VA); Stafford County Telework Center (Stafford, VA); Woodbridge Telework Center (Woodbridge, VA); Winchester Telework Center (Winchester, VA)
WEST VIRGINIA: Jefferson County Telework Center (Biz Tech) (Kearneysville, WV)
GSA AGENCY TELEWORK PROGRAM
Of a total of 12,205 employees at GSA, 11,190 or 92 percent are eligible for telework.
The following table is a summary of telework participation at GSA:
Last Reviewed 6/11/2007