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10:50 pm, July 31, 2014

Telework Center

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Polycom is powering smarter conversations and transforming lives and businesses worldwide. Visit us today at polycom.com.

Telework tax credit introduced

Posted on: Monday 3/21/2011 3:30am

Lost in the relative sturm and drang in Congress over the budget battle and continuing resolutions, a quiet little bill was introduced in the House last month that could make a big difference to your teleworking wallet.

Under the "Telework Tax Incentive Act" (H.R. 710), introduced by Rep. Robert Whitman (R-Va.), teleworkers could qualify for up to $1,000 in a yearly tax credit.

In a news release, Whittman says the bill is part of "a nationwide effort to encourage agencies, organizations, and individuals to telework."

"The telework tax credit aims to break down financial barriers to telework, increase worker productivity, provide for continuity of operations, and reduce traffic congestion through incentivizing a flexible work environment," Wittman said.

"Under the legislation as introduced, those who perform services for an employer under a teleworking arrangement where the employee works at least 75 days per year would be eligible to receive the tax credit. The tax credit would be given for expenses such as furnishings and electronic information equipment which folks need in order to telework."

If it sounds familiar, you may remember a similar bill was introduced in 2009. So far, only Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) has signed on to sponsor this year's effort, but that makes it bipartisan.

The lighter side of the dark side of telework

Posted on: Monday 3/14/2011 3:30am

In the latest issue of PC Magazine, John C. Dvorak bears his soul a bit and gives six reasons why he thinks telework "is not all that it is cracked up to be," for private sector workers. Three of those reasons would apply to federal teleworkers too, at least in theory.

All spouses hate telework. "There are two kinds of spouses," writes Dvorak: "ones that stay at home and ones that work. They will both hate you if you telework. You are either in the way when they are there, or they're jealous of you if you get to work from home and they cannot." However, this overlooks the fact that as a teleworker, you're so much happier and nicer to be around, it's impossible to see you as being in the way. As for the jealousy thing... He may have something there.

You are expected to do housework if you work at home. According to Dvorak, "You are in the house, so do some work. Or else! Spouses will constantly ask you 'What did you do all day?'" His conclusion: "Great! Now you have two bosses." But if you think about it, don't you have that now? Or some form of dual spouses? Many of us have a work-wife or work-husband anyway. It's not all that different.

You do too much work when you telework. Study after study finds teleworkers putting in more than 40 hours a week. There's some discussion about whether this is to fight off any notion teleworkers are slacking, if it's because it's so easy concentrate on what you're doing that you lose track of time, or maybe it's just because you can. By doing more while teleworking, Dvorak argues, management will expect you to do more work in the office. To this, most would probably respond, "good point."

For the other reasons John C. Dvorak no longer thinks telework is a great idea, see The 6 Snags of Telework at PCMag.com.

Bring your own telework tools

Posted on: Monday 3/7/2011 3:30am

In the near future, federal employees could forego a work phone and laptop and do all their work on their personal technology.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said he wants to move toward giving feds a subsidy of $2,000 to purchase their own devices to work on.

Many federal employees have better technology at home than at the office, Kundra said at an AFCEA discussion on the federal budget. But making it reality could be challenging, especially on the cybersecurity front.

Ed Meagher, former CIO at the Interior Department, says it's "an idea whose time has come," despite those challenges.

Meagher, now vice president for healthcare strategy in CSC's North American Public Sector Group, said there are challenges now. The compatability issues are just a similar horse with a different color. In the end, Meagher told Federal News Radio, "I think the business case will be made."

The key to the success of the idea, said Meagher, is to do it now. "We'd better quickly get over ourselves and figure out how we do it today and how we will do it in the future. It's not a matter of should we do this, it's a matter now I think of how we do it."

On the front lines, however, reaction hasn't been quite so positive. One FederalComputerWeek survey respondent on the topic said, "Goes to show that even bright people can be out of their mind!"

When NOT to telework

Posted on: Monday 2/28/2011 3:30am

In a shutdown, just because you can work from outside the office doesn't mean you should, writes Jolie Lee on FederalNewsRadio.com.

That means even if you are not in the office, you can't work on your smartphones, laptops or other devices.

The Office of Personnel Management explicitly says federal employees cannot volunteer to work unpaid during a furlough.

Technology has made working remotely much easier compared with the mid-1990s during the last partial government shutdown.

But the ability to work remotely will not exempt you from being furloughed, said Alan Balutis, the senior director for Cisco's Business Solutions Group and a former chief information officer at the Commerce Department.

"Certain personnel will be deemed essential, and they will remain on duty. Others that are determined to be non-essential and are part of the shutdown are under law prohibited from continuing to work or even to volunteer their time," Balutis said. "I'm sure many will do so regardless."

This desire to work "reflects the dedication and commitment to mission and service to the public that's an aspect of much of our public service then and now," Balutis said.

Teleworkers feel more connected than the deskbound

Posted on: Monday 2/21/2011 3:30am

Teleworking can help improve employee performance, job satisfaction and work-life balance.

The Partnership for Public Service has conducted a survey looking at the relationship between telework, job satisfaction and commitment.

One finding that surprised the Partnership's Tim McManus, vice president for Education and Outreach, has to do with how much control teleworkers have over what goes on back in the office.

McManus told Federal News Radio's DorobekINSIDER, "one would assume, and there's a theory out there or a camp out there that says if you're not in the office, you're probably going to be disconnected from it, you're going to feel less involved, you're going to feel less involved about the decisions? The data actually points to exactly the opposite. Sixteen points higher for those who actually have the opportunity to telework."

OPM's Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) findings agree. Teleworkers "feel they have more control over work processes" 53 percent, compared to 44 percent of non-teleworkers.

Telework breaks down workspace walls

Posted on: Monday 2/14/2011 3:30am

The word "cubicle" is derived from the Latin word for bedroom, which is sort of ironic, considering the cubicle size of the future.

Most people wouldn't be able to stretch out in one.

CNN reports design firm Gensler, which has renovated spaces for 70% of the Fortune 500 companies, estimates those companies have downsized the cubicle from an 8-by-10 foot area to a 5-by-5 foot work space.

The incredible shrinking workspace has whittled an average office worker's 90 square feet in 1994 down to "75 square feet in 2010, according to the International Facility Management Association, a professional network for the facility management industry."

GSA's administrator, Martha Johnson, tells CNN many federal employees don't mind their smaller work spaces. "It's not about making it smaller," Johnson says. "It's about making it more flexible. People don't all want their own space."

At their own headquarters building, GSA's Cathy Kronopolus tells Federal News Radio, "we're going to be moving...three people in where one person sat in the past."

The federal workspace of the future, said Kronopolus, is designed with "interior space to make it as adaptable as possible, and what that does is it really drives and supports alternative work strategies and mobility where you can go to the extreme of free-addressing in a building where no one has an assigned seat to where you have assigned seats, but you have much smaller square footage used by each employee because they're out mobile working in different locations or teleworking."

The move to telework starts with the cloud

Posted on: Monday 2/7/2011 3:30am

"2011 is going to be a big experimentation year," Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at Forrester Research who studies collaboration tools and team productivity, tells NextGov when it comes to tablets and the mobile workforce.

Consulting firm Deloitte agrees. In a report released last month, Deloitte predicts this it the year the iPad will make the leap from consumer driven to enterprise tool.

One possible fly in the ointment to slow that progress is how much data the tablets can hold. However, Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology leader at Deloitte told the Dorobek Insider, at agencies where email and document storage have moved to the cloud, the iPad offers an opportunity to replace computers, Openshaw said.

A bonus that comes with storage on the cloud is being able to share applications.

"Being able to source applications on demand," Jeff Bergeron, the U.S. Public Sector Chief Technology Officer for HP explained to the Federal Drive, "in a mobile environment is certainly critical, so we'll see the explosion of mobile and mobile workforce and mobile devices within the public sector market as cloud becomes more of a reality."

How 'Bout Now?

Posted on: Monday 1/31/2011 1:36am

You might have noticed. We had some weather issues last week in the Washington, DC area.

Federal employees were sent home two hours early on Wednesday, but waaaaay down in the announcements was this direction from the Office of Personnel Management:

With supervisory approval, a telework-ready employee may depart prior to the scheduled early departure time without charge to annual leave provided the employee makes up the time later in the day by teleworking, as permitted by his or her agency's policies, procedures, and collective bargaining agreements.

"Yes," some might say, "but my power went out."

"Yes," others might say, "but my agency didn't tell us we could leave early until two hours before I would have left anyway."

"Yes, but..."

While there may be a chorus of "yes, buts" heard across the federal government, it was possible.

But only if the employee had a telework agreement in force.

The alternatives, like using leave or maybe getting stuck in traffic, are probably more of a hassle than filling out the paperwork for telework.

'What, me worry' Teleworkforce

Posted on: Monday 1/24/2011 2:30am

When feds walk out the door, sometimes security goes out the window.

Taking a look at "Mobile Computing at Federal Agencies: Frequency, Functionality, & Security - A Candid Survey of Federal Executives," the Government Business Council found that of the federal executive who telework, "80 percent of respondents with mobile devices indicate they not concerned about their ability to secure them."

Specifically, by "secure," they mean theft, losing or damaging the device.

When asked about those three, 12 percent said theft was a concern, 10 percent said losing an agency device was a concern, and damaging it was a concern of 7 percent. Three percent said there is some unspecified "other" concern.

"None of the above" was checked by 80 percent of the 211 question respondents.

Six quick tips for the first time teleworker

Posted on: Monday 1/17/2011 3:30am

As the deep south was hit by more than just a deep freeze, the Clean Air Campaign wrote a letter to the editor (we'll assume it was e-mail) of the Woodstock-Towne Lake (Ga.) Patch offering Telework Tips for the Stranded.

If you, or someone you know, are new to telework, these might help!

Start with a plan: Make a list of things to do throughout the day and include a timeline to help you stay focused.

Stay organized: Keep your work space free of the clutter that tends to build up at home, like mail, games, magazines, homework, etc.

Stay connected: Make sure that you are easily accessible by phone, e-mail and/or instant messaging. Touch base with your teammates and supervisor to inform them of your progress.

Check your e-mail: Even if you don't have full VPN access, you may be able to accomplish a few smaller tasks and stay connected to co-workers and clients by checking webmail - or your smartphone, if you have access to one.

Minimize distractions: Avoid working in a noisy spot or in front of the TV. If you have kids home from school, plan ahead by scheduling games, activities and movies to keep them engaged while you telework. Make snacks and meals the night before.

Charge up: Make sure you keep up the charge in your cell phone and laptop so you can continue to work even if you temporarily lose power.

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