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These basic steps will help minimize any potential administrative burden, maximize the benefit of telework for you and your workgroup, and set the stage for your employees to be successful, whether or not they are teleworking.
Each agency must designate a telework coordinator who acts as a key contact for policy and program questions.
Managers should maintain frequent contact with their telework coordinator to ensure the agency's policy and procedures are properly applied and to ensure they
are aware of the full range of support and resources available to them.
As detailed in §359 of Public Law 106-346, all agencies must have a telework policy. Managers should familiarize themselves and their employees with their agency policy to ensure they are in compliance with its requirements.
In addition, all agencies should have policies on information systems and technology security, and managers must ensure their equipment choices and
telework agreements comply with this policy. Information security includes protection of sensitive "hard-copy" files and documents.
Online telework training for managers is available. In addition, many agencies offer telework training, and telework
coordinators are available to consult with managers.
Information technology security training, administered at the agency level, is mandatory, and managers should ensure that teleworkers complete this
training and understand their responsibilities in safeguarding work-related information.
Generally, agencies have discretion to determine telework eligibility criteria for their employees. These criteria should be detailed in agency policy. Individual managers should assess who is and who is not eligible in their workgroup based on these eligibility guidelines and
any applicable collective bargaining agreements. Some agencies may provide managers additional discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a
request to telework from an eligible employee, based on additional factors such as staffing or budget.
Telework is often implemented on a case-by-case basis, rather than strategically, as individuals request arrangements. This reactive approach carries the risk of
raising fairness issues, with decisions about telework arrangements being made on a first-come, first-served basis. Telework should be implemented strategically,
taking into account the needs and work of the group, rather than granting or denying telework requests one by one. Employees should participate in the process
and may be asked to help formulate possible solutions to issues that may arise.
The teleworker and his or her manager should enter into a written agreement for every type of telework, whether the employee teleworks regularly or not.
The parameters of this agreement are most often laid out by the agency policy and/or collective bargaining agreement, but should include certain key elements:
Most importantly, the agreement should be signed and dated by the manager. Managers should keep copies of all telework agreements on file.
Telework agreements are living documents and should be revisited by the manager and teleworker and re-signed regularly, preferably at least once a year.
At a minimum, new telework agreements should be executed when a new employee/manager relationship is established.
OPM strongly recommends any individuals asked to telework in the case of a Continuity of Operations (COOP) event or a pandemic health crisis have a telework
agreement in place that provides for such an occurrence. Such individuals also should practice teleworking on a regular
basis as much as possible.
The telework agreement provides a framework for the discussion that needs to take place between the manager and the employee about expectations. For both
routine and emergency telework, this discussion is important to ensure the manager and the employee understand each other's expectations around basic issues
such as the following:
Telework requests may be denied and telework agreements may be terminated. Telework is not an employee right, even if the employee is
considered "eligible" by OPM standards and/or the individual agency standards.
Denial and termination decisions must be based on business needs or performance, not personal reasons. For example, a manager may deny a
telework agreement if, due to staffing issues, an employee who otherwise has portable duties must provide on-site office coverage. In this
case, and whenever applicable, the denial or termination should include information about when the employee might reapply, and also if
applicable, what actions the employee should take to improve his or her chance of approval. Denials should be provided in a timely manner.
Managers should also review the agency's negotiated agreement(s) and telework policy to ensure they meet any
Managers should provide affected employees (and keep copies of) signed written denials or terminations of telework agreements. These should
include information about why the arrangement was denied or terminated. OPM tracks the numbers of agreements denied and/or terminated, as well as
the reasons for such an action; therefore, copies should be given to the agency telework coordinator as well.
Bargaining unit employees may file a grievance about the denial or cancellation of a telework agreement through the negotiated grievance procedure.
Managers often ask, "How do I know my employees are working when I can't see them?" Performance standards for off-site employees are the same as performance standards for on-site employees. Management expectations of a teleworker's performance should be clearly addressed in the telework agreement. As with on-site employees, teleworkers must, and can, be held accountable for the results they produce. Good performance management techniques practiced by a manager will mean a smooth, easy transition to a telework environment. Resources for performance management are available from OPM at www.opm.gov/perform.
In Federal Management Regulation (FMR) Bulletin 2006-B3, Guidelines for Alternative Workplace Arrangements , GSA provides guidelines for the equipment and support that an agency may provide teleworkers. Generally, decisions are made by the agency or by individual managers regarding the ways in which teleworkers should be equipped. Managers should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and also with their agency's policy on equipment. Within those constraints, the challenge for managers is finding the right balance of budget, security, and effectiveness. Factors to consider include technology needs based on the work of the employee, agency security requirements, and budget constraints.
Managers should avoid distributing work based on "availability" as measured by physical presence, and avoid the pitfall of assuming that someone who is present and looks busy is actually accomplishing more work than someone who is not on-site. Good performance management practices are essential for telework to work effectively and equitably.
Although individual employees are responsible for complying with information security requirements, managers should work with teleworkers to ensure they fully understand the relevant policies and procedures.
Telework can be an important component of agency Continuity of Operations (COOP) and pandemic influenza planning.
The success of an organization's telework program depends on regular, routine use. Experience is the only way to enable managers, employees,
IT support, and other stakeholders to work through any technology, equipment, communications, workflow, and associated issues that may inhibit the
transparency of remote work. Individuals expected to telework in an emergency situation should, with some frequency, telework under non-emergency circumstances as well.