On December 9, 2010 President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. It amends Part III of title 5 in the United States Code by inserting “Chapter 65-Telework.” Sponsored by Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia and John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, the act requires executive agencies of the federal government to:
Establish telework policies;
Designate a Telework Managing Officer to oversee telework in each agency or department;
Determine employee eligibility for telework;
Notify all employees of their eligibility;
Establish telework training programs for workers and managers;
Integrate telework into their Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP); and
Provide yearly progress reports to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The act establishes telework as a strategic management tool improving the way work gets accomplished. It increases the opportunity for telework from the 103,000 in 2008 to over 1 million today.
There are caveats but they are reasonable. Employees who have been officially disciplined for being absent for more than 5 days in a calendar year are not eligible. Neither are employees who have viewed, downloaded or exchanged pornography on a Federal Government computer. If the employee handles high security materials or performs on-site activity that cannot be done remotely then the head of the agency can exempt them from participation.
Each department must have a written agreement that outlines the arrangement and removes that employee’s authorization in the event the employee fails to comply. Employees and their managers have to complete an interactive training program before they can enter the agreement. After they have entered the agreement they are treated the same as onsite employees in terms of performance appraisals, training and retraining, promotions and demotions and reassignments. Their work assignments are designed to match the work they would perform on site if they were there. All performance is monitored by the same guidelines that the Office of Personnel Management establishes for any other employee.
THE ROLE OF THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
It is up to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to provide guidance and to establish teleworking goals and the qualitative and quantitative measures for teleworkers. It in turn works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish guidelines for continuity of operations and with the General services Administration to define policy guidelines on travel, equipment, dependant care, technology and telework centers. To manage records and insure their preservation the OPM consults with the National Archives and Records Administration to insure teleworkers receive the guidance needed to work efficiently and effectivity. The OPM is responsible to maintain a telework website that includes links, guidance and announcements of importance to employees.
Each agency is required to designate an employee as the Telework Managing Officer who takes direction from the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer. Officers develop and implement policy, take an advisory role to the leadership, have direct access to the head of the agency and are the primary point of contact for the the OPM.
THE ROLE OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
Security is coordinated by three groups; the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards and Technology coordinate with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. There are six key areas upon which they take responsibility; access to information and systems, protection of personal information, wireless and telecommunication capability, safeguarding introductions of vulnerabilities, protecting information systems used by teleworkers that are not under the agencies control and lastly, inappropriate use of time and resources relating to pornography. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is also responsible for guidance insuring that purchases of new equipment include systems suitable for telework.
While telework policy is incorporated into continuity of operations planning, it is the operations plan itself and not the telework policy that has authority during the times when it is activated.
Each year, except for 2010 which has an 18 month window, the OPM submits a report to the Committee on Homeland Security and the Governmental Affairs of the Senate with a copy to the Comptroller General and the Office of Management and Budget. In that report the OPM includes statistics to measure the adoption of the program and its growth. In any year where there is a 10% difference from the previous year they include an explanation. The report includes the method for collecting the data, the goal for the upcoming year and an assessment of progress.
Within the report, data will also be available on energy use, recruitment and retention, productivity, emergency readiness, performance and employee attitudes and opinions on telework. Most importantly, for other adopters who want to emulate the program, there will be a best practices report, something that is quite valuable to everyone trying to mature their own processes and mimic the savings and productivity gains of the Act.
While all departments can create test programs, to get reimbursed for travel during a test program they must sign an agreement with the Administrator of General Services which will pay for up to ten simultaneous tests in each department. Tests are designed to enhance cost savings or any other efficiencies that accrue to the Government. For that reimbursement each department must submit their results which include data on the number of visits to a pre-existing duty station are made by the employee, the paid travel expenses of the agency and the employee and any other information that will helps the Administrator, the telework Managing Officer or Congress understand the test and its impact on the program.
RESEARCH FOR AMERICANS
While the Act applies only to agencies of the federal government, the OPM is making sure all Americans benefit from this change in work organization. Within the act the OPM is charged with the responsibility to research the use of telework by public and private sector entities, to review the outcomes of the increase in telework on energy consumption, job creation and availability, urban transportation patterns and the dispersal of work during emergencies. All this data including studies and reviews are available to the public.