Managerial resistance remains one of the major barriers to telework and “can undermine reviewed agencies’ ability to meet telework participation goals,” GAO has said.

For its latest report on telework activities, GAO conducted focus groups in which teleworkers described how supervisors discourage telework participation, explicitly or implicitly. That included not allowing changes to agreed-on telework schedules, not approving situational telework requests, not allowing teleworking employees to call in to staff meetings, and limiting the number of telework days allowed.

“Officials at three of our four case study agencies and two focus groups with teleworkers and supervisors reported that some managers do not support telework because they believe it contributes to poorer performance, as compared to the performance of in-office employees,” it said.

“We heard from some union officials and focus groups with teleworkers that employees sometimes assumed that supervisors were approving telework based on favoritism or other reasons not supported by agency policy,” it added.

Further, three of the four agencies did not track whether managers completed telework training before they decided whether to approve telework, and the managers thus may not be familiar with policies before making those decisions.

“We also heard at one focus group with teleworkers that employees did not always feel comfortable voicing concerns publicly for fear of negative consequences for their careers. However, if employees are not provided an opportunity to voice their concerns without concern for negative consequences to their jobs, agencies may be missing an opportunity to better identify and address barriers to telework, including managerial resistance,” GAO said.