New generation of feds advancing telework, expert says

Tuesday - 1/31/2012, 11:37am EST

Tom Simmons, vice president for Federal Systems, Citrix Systems

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The General Services Administration and other agencies are shrinking their office space, forcing some employees to telework. Federal green initiatives aim to keep people out of their cars. And a year ago, Congress passed new telework legislation, calling on agencies to establish strong telework policies.

"The implementation is moving forward across the agencies," said Tom Simmons, an expert on federal telework initiatives and vice president for Federal Systems at Citrix Systems. "I think some are more advanced than others."

Simmons spoke to The Federal Drive with Tom Temin on Tuesday morning about the various motivations behind the adoption and implementation of telework across the federal government.

Tom Simmons, vice president for Federal Systems, Citrix Systems

The roots of federal telework policy go back five years to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who included in his oversight of federal agencies the implementation of telework. His objective was to reduce the number of cars on the road, thereby easing the strain on Northern Virginia's infrastructure.

"We've come a long way from those early days," Simmons said. "Most agencies are set up with a telework technology capability and now it's moving to the implementation of policy and management objectives and things like that."

One of the things that's pushing implementation forward is a shift in technical expenditures. Maybe a federal employee doesn't need a computer for his office desktop because he teleworks, or perhaps he'd rather use his own laptop to do the work from home and the agency just needs to figure out a way to provision it.

"When we first started working with clients on telework projects, most of them, for either telework or a continuity of operation plan, would have laptops that they would store in a closet in the office and they would issue those laptops to teleworkers on planned days off," Simmons said.

With many agencies now embracing a bring-your-own-device concept, it's much easier to enable a teleworker or a mobile government worker to work from anywhere.

"Security policy is moving in that direction," Simmons said. "Technology certainly enables a very secure connection from any device, whether it's a home PC or laptop, an iPad, a smartphone, to be able to come into the work environment and provide access to all of the applications and all of the tools necessary for a teleworker to get their job accomplished."

While the signing of the Telework Enhancement Act may have mandated agencies to develop teleworking plans for there offices, Simmons sees other factors pushing the adoption of telework forward.

"We've got a whole generation of folks coming into government that are used to college doing their work from a local Starbucks on a Wi-Fi network," he said. "It is that next generation of worker that's coming in that's expecting to be able to bring that work style to their government jobs."

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