Fedweek

Several recent developments have shown signs of doubt on Capitol Hill and in the administration regarding agencies’ use of telework, an initiative that has been pushed for many years as benefitting both employees and their agencies.

A contract recently imposed by the Education Department on its AFGE bargaining unit drops provisions related to telework from the predecessor agreement; the union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint regarding that and other changes.

Previously, the Agriculture Department generally limited employees to two days of regularly scheduled telework per biweekly pay period, cutting back its availability for potentially many thousands of its employees.

Also, the Trump administration’s President’s Management Agenda issued last month was silent on telework, as was its budgetary proposal in February; in contrast, Obama administration budget plans praised telework.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members active in civil service issues has asked the Patent and Trademark Office to describe what it has done in response to several IG reports finding time and attendance abuses by patent examiners, much of which involved teleworking time. Until those reports were issued, the PTO’s extensive use of telework had been held up as a government-wide model.

That same group also separately asked the GAO to update a previous report on time and attendance controls by federal agencies, citing the IG reports and testimony at a late 2016 House hearing. “Given the fast-paced and ever-evolving change in technology and the increasing use of telework by federal agencies, we believe the federal government would benefit from an update to the report,” they wrote.

See also, Telework Rules for Federal Employees at ask.FEDweek.com

Last year the GAO reported for example that the Veterans Benefits Administration in the VA “does not yet have key controls in place to ensure that employees’ telework hours are recorded accurately in the time and attendance system.”

OPM late in 2017 reported that while the percentage of employees deemed eligible for telework has flattened off, the share of those eligible who actually do telework continues to increase slightly. However, it repeated long-running observations that some managers still resist allowing their employees to telework for reasons including that it is more difficult to supervise teleworkers.

Earlier this year in a separate report OPM made a business case to agency management to allow and even encourage participation by their employees in telework and other work-life balance programs. It said for example that employees who telework are much more likely to report ratings that indicate exceeding the standards on their last performance appraisal, are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, and expressed greater intentions to remain at their agencies.