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Basics for Managers *

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.


Step 1: Know Your Telework Coordinator

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.

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Step 2: Know Your Policy and Procedures

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.

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Step 3: Participate in Training

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.

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Step 4: Determine Employee Eligibility

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.


Step 5: Understand and Assess the Needs of the Workgroup

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.

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Step 6: Create Signed Agreements

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:

  • Location of the telework office (e.g., home, telework center, other)
  • Equipment inventory - what employee is supplying, what agency is providing, and if applicable, what the telework center is providing
  • In general, the job tasks that will be performed while teleworking
  • Telework schedule
  • Telework contact information (e.g., what phone number to use on the telework day)
  • Safety checklist - certifying that the home office meets certain standards
  • Expectations for emergency telework; specify whether the employee is expected to telework in the case of a COOP event, pandemic, weather shutdown, other unusual local conditions that may substantially affect commuting, etc.

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.

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Step 7: Communicate Expectations

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:

  • How will the manager know the teleworking employee is on or off duty? (Signing in, signing off procedures may be needed.)
  • How will the manager know the work is being accomplished?
  • What technologies will be used to maintain contact?
  • What equipment is the agency providing? What equipment is the teleworker providing?
  • Who provides technical assistance in the event of equipment disruption?
  • What will the weekly/monthly telework schedule be? How will the manager and co-workers be kept updated about the schedule? What happens if the schedule needs to be changed by the manager or by the employee?
  • What will the daily telework schedule be? Will the hours be the same as in the main office, or will they be different?
  • What are the physical attributes of the telework office, and do they conform to basic safety standards? (Use a safety checklist.)
  • How available does the teleworker need to be - is the telework intended to be seamless, so that phone, email, etc. are dealt with the same as in the office? Or is the employee teleworking to be away from such distractions?
  • What is the expectation regarding the amount of notice (if any) given for reporting to the official worksite, and how will such notice be provided?
  • How is a telework agreement terminated by management or an employee?

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Step 8: Base Denials on Business Reasons

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 applicable requirements.

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.

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Step 9: Use Good Performance Management Practices

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


Step 10: Make Good Decisions about Equipment

In Federal Management Regulation (FMR) Bulletin 2006-B3, Guidelines for Alternative Workplace Arrangements PDF File, 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.

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Step 11: Remain Equitable in Assigning Work and Rewarding Performance

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.


Step 12: Address Security Responsibilities

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.

  • Thoroughly review all telework agreements to ensure they are in compliance with agency information security policies
  • Ensure employees receive agency information systems security training
  • Work with employees to ensure they fully understand and have the technical expertise to comply with agency requirements
  • Invest in technology and equipment that can support success
  • Work with employees to develop secure systems for potentially sensitive documents and other materials
  • Track removal and return of potentially sensitive materials, such as personnel records
  • Enforce personal privacy requirements for records

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Step 13: Plan for Emergencies

Telework can be an important component of agency Continuity of Operations (COOP) and pandemic influenza planning.

  • Implement telework to the greatest extent possible in the workgroup so systems are in place to support successful remote work in an emergency
  • Understand the agency emergency plans and management roles in executing those plans
  • Communicate expectations to all employees regarding their roles and responsibilities in relation to remote work in the event of an emergency
  • Communicate expectations both to COOP and non-COOP employees regarding what steps they need to take in case of an emergency
  • Establish communication processes to notify all employees in the event of an emergency
  • Integrate COOP and pandemic influenza expectations into telework agreements as appropriate
  • With the employee, assess requirements for working at home for an extended period
  • Determine how all employees who may telework will communicate with one another and with management to accomplish work

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Step 14: Practice, Practice, Practice

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.

* Adapted from "A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government" PDF File [104 KB]

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