GAO noted that the financial aspect is just one factor in promoting telework and that oher major potential benefits include continuity of operations considerations in case of a natural disaster or other emergency; work/life balance for employees and associated recruitment and retention considerations; reduced employee absenteeism; and reduced environmental impact from less commuting.
Of the six agencies GAO studied in detail, all said telework had improved recruitment/retention, work/life balance and productivity there, for example. However, the agencies generally did not have a way of formally tracking the benefits they cited, said GAO, noting that in some cases—such as improved retention—it is difficult to ascertain the role telework plays since other initiatives also work toward the same end.
The report meanwhile said that management resistance—in particular, discomfort with managing employees who are working off-site–remains the greatest reported barrier to wider adoption of telework.
Several of the other most commonly cited barriers also are related to management concerns, including adequacy of the technology available, security concerns, office coverage, budget constraints, mission requirements, communication between employees and supervisors, and the ability to track productivity. The nature of the work, organizational culture and resistance by some employees also were concerns.
Potential strategies to overcome barriers include training for employees and managers, sharing of best practices, all hands meetings, memos and other communications to employees, and including a performance standard in support of telework in SES performance plans, said GAO.
Some of the concerns have proven to be well-placed, though, it added: IG offices at several agencies have found potential for fraud, and in some cases actual fraud, in employees’ reported working hours. In some cases supervisors knew about such abuses but took no action, although in others discipline including firing was imposed.