Top tips for managing teleworkers

Sunday - 11/27/2011, 8:56pm EST

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

It's been just under one year since President Barack Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act into law, but many federal employees still don't know if they are eligible to telework. According to the latest Employee Viewpoint Survey, 67 percent of feds fall into this category.

So, what can federal managers do to support the transition to telework within their agencies and make sure employees have the information they need? Telework.gov lists 13 steps managers should take if they haven't already.

  • Tip 1: Know your telework managing officer and telework coordinator - All agencies are supposed to have a TMO. According to Telework.gov, managers should keep in constant contact with their TMO to "ensure the agency's policy and procedures are properly applied and to ensure they are aware of the full range of support and resources available to them." A list of agency telework coordinators can be found here. Agencies not on the list, can contact OPM by email for further assistance.

  • Tip 2: Know your policy and procedures, including applicable collective bargaining agreements - Every agency must have its own telework policy, according to the Telework Enhancement Act. In addition to that policy, Telework.gov reminds managers they must have policies that address IT security.

  • Tip 3: Successfully complete telework training - Telework training is mandatory for any employee who wishes to telework, but Telework.gov encourages managers to complete training as well.

  • Tip 4: Determine employee eligibility - Agencies were supposed to determine the telework eligibility of their employees by June 7 but, as of September, 67 percent of feds surveyed said they still didn't know their telework status.

  • Tip 5: Understand and assess the needs of the workgroup - Telework.gov recommends each agency use an overarching strategy to determine telework eligibility rather than approving employees on a case-by-case basis to avoid bias issues.

  • Tip 6: Enter into written telework agreements - The Office of Personnel Management says these agreements should contain key elements including the location of the telework office, the telework schedule, contact information and a safety checklist. OPM also recommends that telework agreements should be revisited regularly, especially when an employee gets a new manager or vice versa.

  • Tip 7: Communicate expectations - OPM provides a list of questions for managers to discuss with employees before telework begins, including how a telework agreement should be terminated and what is expected of a teleworker in an emergency.

  • Tip 8: Base denials on business reasons - According to OPM, "Denial and termination decisions must be based on operational needs or performance in accordance with the law, not personal reasons."

  • Tip 9: Use good performance management practices - Telework.gov reminds managers that performance standards for teleworkers and non-teleworkers must be the same. Performance management guidance for managers can be found here.

  • Tip 10: Make good decisions about equipment - GSA has provided guidance for agency managers looking to equip alternative workplaces.

  • Tip 11: Remain equitable in assigning work and rewarding performance - Teleworkers and non-teleworkers should be considered for the same projects. Non-teleworkers should not have an advantage due to their physical presence in the office.

  • Tip 12: Address safety and security responsibilities - Managers should ensure that employees are aware of the array of information security requirements needed to telework and have received the proper training. Managers should also make sure the equipment issued to employees provides the proper security.

  • Tip 13: Practice telework - OPM urges managers to telework as well. "Experience is the only way to enable managers, employees, IT support, and other stakeholders to work through any technology, equipment, communications, workflow, and associated issues that may inhibit the transparency of telework."