In a study of four agencies GAO found differences in their approaches to approving telework and reporting on it, although they are in general compliance with the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act.
The latest of many reviews of telework focused on how four agencies–Education, GSA, Labor, and SEC–comply with that law, which set policies in areas including eligibility, the approval process, the required agreements between employees and management, and training for both sides.
GAO said that all four made efforts to encourage telework participation and to provide the technology to enable it, and that they have controls to help ensure that telework does not diminish employee and organizational performance. “These four agencies’ policies followed the act’s requirement that teleworkers be treated the same as non-teleworkers for the purposes of work requirements, performance appraisals, and other managerial decisions,” it said.
However, three did not require a periodic documented review of telework agreements and thus cannot be sure that the agreements reflect and support their current business needs.
The agencies further used differing methods to collect and report telework data to be included in OPM’s annual telework reports, and all cited challenges to ensuring that employee-reported telework data were accurate because employees may not know or follow policies for recording telework. Those OPM reports show that the number of federal employees who teleworked during the year rose from 301,000 in 2012 to 427,000 in 2015. That includes both regularly scheduled telework and telework on a situational basis such as in weather emergencies.
GAO made recommendations including ensuring that supervisors complete telework training in a timely manner, and improving telework data reporting. GAO also recommended that OPM help agencies assess telework barriers and improve data reporting. “In its leadership role for telework matters, OPM can assist agencies with tools to assess and resolve these types of concerns,” the report said.