Prediction: No more snow days for feds

Tuesday - 5/11/2010, 10:31am EDT

Jon Desenberg, policy director, The Performance Institute

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

As a result of this past winter's storms, says one expert, "We got clear signs from OPM that we may never have another official snow day again in Washington."

Jon Desenberg, policy director for the Performance Management and Human Capital Management Divisions at The Performance Institute, told Federal News Radio the change is already happening.

Instead, we're going to have Work At Home days, because, especially based on that Friday where they attempted to re-open the government and it didn't really go very well, the attitude now is so many people are working at home that those traditional days on/days off, that that just doesn't matter. That's no longer really relevant. What's relevant is can you work remotely and more and more people can.

Desenberg said even the failure of the Telework Improvements Act isn't as relevant as it might have seemed either.

If you look at this Congressional legislation, many of the agencies have moved beyond this point. I'm thinking specifically of some work we've been doing at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and they have a very clear premise, which is: work anywhere and work with anyone at any time.

So the agencies "are moving quickly in this direction and I think the policy is lagging," said Desenberg.

In order to make telework work, the first steps are clear, according to Desenberg.

There are a couple of clear ground rules that we've seen that are really best practices. Number one is you have to be available if you're teleworking. There have been a few negative incidents where people are not available, they're not available by phone, and that just can't fly. Really, if you're teleworking, you're working which means you are available by phone, you are available by email.

So there should be a policy about how quickly you get back to someone or how quickly you get back to your supervisor. "Rule number two," said Desenberg, "is all about what are you out to accomplish. It's a results work environment, as OPM is calling it, and that means not just long term goals, but what are we expecting in the short term?"

There do need to be some real set objectives to make this work. What we've seen again and again, if you set clear goals, people want to achieve those goals. People are working in the government for the right reasons and that means set those clear expectations, set the clear goals for people. It may take a little bit more work up front, but it certainly pays off in the long run.

For more on telework in the federal government, see the Tandberg Telework Center.