Basics for Employees *
Telework gives employees more flexibility in meeting personal and professional responsibilities; it can offer freedom from office distractions, reduced work/life stress, and an alternative worksite setup that can be used in case of emergency.
If you are interested in teleworking, or already telework but want to ensure that you are a great teleworker, here are the key steps to success:
Step 1: Know Your Telework Coordinator
All agencies must designate a telework coordinator, who acts as a key contact for policy and program questions. Employees should maintain frequent contact with their telework coordinator to be sure that they follow policy and procedures, and for support and assistance should it be needed.
Step 2: Know Your Policy and Procedures
As detailed in the legislation, all agencies must have a telework policy. Employees should familiarize themselves with this policy and any relevant procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with its requirements.
Step 3: Participate in Training
The Office of Personnel Management offers online teleworker training. In addition, many agencies offer their own training as part of the telework policy and procedures. Information about any agency-based training is available from the telework coordinator.
Information technology security training is mandatory at the agency level, and teleworkers must complete this training and understand their responsibilities in safeguarding work-related information.
Step 4: Conduct an Honest Self Assessment
A great telework arrangement starts with a good self assessment. Employees should consider the following factors in making an honest determination about their telework capabilities:
- Sufficient portable work for the amount of telework being proposed
- Ability to work independently, without close supervision
- Comfort with the technologies, if any, that will be needed to telework
- Good communication with manager, co-workers, customers that will enable a relatively seamless transition from onsite to offsite
- Telework office space that is conducive to getting the work done
- Dependent care (i.e., child care, elder care, or care of any other dependent adults) arrangements are in place
- Ability to be flexible about the telework arrangement to respond to the needs of the manager, the workgroup, and the work
Step 5: Create a Good Telework Agreement
No matter how frequently or infrequently an employee intends to telework, a written agreement should be negotiated between the employee and manager. Elements of this agreement should include:
- 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.
The manager and teleworker should work together to periodically evaluate the arrangement, make changes to the agreement as necessary, and re-sign the document.
Step 6: Safeguard Information and Data
Employees must take responsibility for the security of the data and other information that they handle while teleworking. This means they should:
- Be familiar with, understand, and comply with their agency's information security policies
- Participate in agency information security training
- In addition to following security protocols for remote connectivity, maintain security of any relevant materials, including files, correspondence, and equipment. Depending on the sensitivity of the information being handled, the home office may need to include security measures such as locked file cabinets, similar to what may be used in the worksite.
Step 7: Plan the Work
Employees who are teleworking should assess the portability of their work and the level of technology available at the remote site as they prepare to telework. In many cases, employees will need to plan for their telework days in order to be as effective as possible, considering the following questions:
- What files or other documents will I need to take with me when I leave my regular workplace the day before teleworking?
- What equipment will I need to take?
- Who needs to be notified that I will be teleworking?
- What other steps should I take before I leave my office (for example, forwarding the phone)?
- In the case of emergency telework, what should I have available at all times at my home office or, if applicable, a telework center that would enable me to be functional without coming onsite to retrieve materials?
Step 8: Manage Expectations and Communication
Although managers are ultimately responsible for the healthy functioning of the workgroup, teleworkers must help manage the group's expectations and their own communication in order to avoid any negative impact of their arrangement.
Issues that should be addressed include:
- Backup: Even with very portable work, there are inevitably instances where physical presence is required, and a co-worker often needs to step in. Co-worker backup should be planned, it should not be onerous, and it should be reciprocal. Resulting cross-training has broad organizational benefits.
- On-the-spot assistance: Teleworkers may occasionally need someone who is physically in the main office to assist them, for instance, to fax a document to them, or to look up information. Again, these arrangements should not be onerous and they should be reciprocal; a "buddy system" between teleworkers may be the least disruptive solution.
- Communication: The manager and co-workers need to be kept apprised of the teleworker's schedule, how to reach him/her, how to handle telephone calls or other communications that need to go to the teleworker, and how customers are to be handled.
* Adapted from "A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government"