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Posted on: Monday 10/18/2010 5:00pm
The fire at the Department of Agriculture Plant and Health Inspection Service center in Riverdale, Maryland closed the building for a day. According to an information given employees "Under the Agency's continuity of operations plan, those employees able to work from home," were authorized to do so. "Those who are not equipped to telework are authorized administrative leave for the day," said the USDA website.
The closure lasted a day, but reminded many of the "Snowmageddon" storms of last winter that shut down some DC offices for a week.
Looking back at that event, Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco Systems' U.S. public-sector unit, told Government Computer News he thinks it promoted telework.
"My colleagues and I can work anywhere," Klein told GCN, "a hotel room, a Starbucks, at home - using secure connections. And in the case of a snowstorm or, God forbid, a pandemic, our customers can do the same thing."
Posted on: Friday 10/8/2010 6:14pm
Not that much more proof is needed for the value of a solid telework policy.
General Services Administration's Martha Johnson learned its value in her first seconds on the job. The administrator told a recent town hall meeting at the Telework Exchange, "I was sworn in by phone from my kitchen during the blizzard last winter. So, Telework is still 'who I am,' and it is also for GSA about 'who we are.'"
While Johnson said "GSA is about workplaces," she acknowledged the 21st century workplace might not be a place at all.
Posted on: Monday 10/4/2010 11:00am
More than a hundred federal executives randomly selected from Government Executive's subscribers from 28 federal agencies including Army, Homeland Security, Treasury, and the United States Postal Service participated in a May survey titled Cybersecurity in Government: Balancing Access, Functionality, and Mobility.
More than half the respondents, 52%, said their agency security restrictions are so tight, they're limited to working within the confines of their agency's buildings.
Curiously, those same restrictions drive those same executives to work anywhere but at the office. Sixty percent say say they often work at home. Many say they have to take work home because that's the only place they can access the information they need to get their job done.
A majority of respondents surveyed are provided with a laptop by their agency (61 percent), and more than one-third have agency-issued smartphones (35 percent).
Posted on: Monday 9/20/2010 11:44am
"The Federal government is in a telework perfect storm - it's a win for employees, managers, agencies, and the environment," said Cindy Auten, General Manager, Telework Exchange at a recent event with Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed is joining forces the Telework Exchange "in support of their mission to expand and improve telework options for government agencies and employees," according to a Lockheed press release.
Additionally, Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill newspaper says to watch for the Telework Act to be passed this year.
After a rough patch in the House, it now has bipartisan backing from Frank Wolf (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and others. "I think that's a bill," said Cusack, "that could be folded into a continuing resolution or some type of massive bill that's moving through" and use the momentum to carry though. "It's one of those bills that's going to be attached to a train that's moving and that's what the sponsors are going to be looking for."
Posted on: Friday 9/10/2010 6:22pm
According to the White House, agencies were asked to "develop, implement and annually update a plan that prioritizes sustainability actions based on a positive return on investment for the American taxpayer and to meet energy, water, and waste reduction targets."
Standing out from the crowd is a tiny independent agency, the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Part of the challenge in meeting the "goal of a 28 percent reduction by 2020 in direct greenhouse gas pollution" is the fact that it doesn't own any buildings or vehicles.
Listed second on the IMLS' Sustainability Accomplishments in a press release is that "nearly 25 percent of the agency staff telework at least occasionally."
And blowing the doors off the President's goals is the IMLS's intention to "Increase percentage of employees who telework at least one day per week to 50 percent by fiscal year 2013."
It may be tiny, but when it comes to telework, you can hear the IMLS roar.
Posted on: Monday 9/6/2010 1:50pm
So far, the House and the Senate have passed similar bills to expand telework across government.
Now the reconciliation needs to begin before one final bill can be sent to the President for approval.
Both versions are designed to expand telework across government by assuming employees are eligible for telework instead of requiring them to prove it's a good fit for their position.
Posted on: Monday 8/30/2010 10:26am
Chief Information Officer Diane Herdt says it's all part of an effort to get greener. GSA Administrator Martha Johnson "has given us the goal to reduce our carbon footprint and to reduce the amount of space that we currently have. So has Bob Peck, the commissioner of PBS. So we're looking at tools and technology that will allow us to...telework outside of the office, as well as hotelling when we're here in the office."
While PBS isn't quite ready to turn off all the lights and send everyone home to work, Herdt says GSA is ready to loosen up the leash a bit.
I think we're going to be more lenient with the number of days that we allow people to telework. I think we're also going to reduce the amount of space. In other words, if you telework at home or somewhere else two to three days a week then you need to give up your desk here so that when you come into the office you only have a hotellng suite as opposed to a desk and the cubicle associated with it.
The PBS is getting a good grip on the technology needed, said the CIO. "Pretty much every one of our employees has a laptop which is set up with the GSA standard configuration, which includes the security necessary, as well as a BlackBerry." Teleworkers are also required to use instant messaging so they're always accessible during work hours. Major upgrades to Office 2007, VOIP, and remote access are underway as well.
And oh, yeah, by the way... You know the pushback you hear about from managers about "out of sight, out of mind" when it comes to teleworkers?
"We're sending our managers to training," says Herdt, "to learn how to properly manage virtual employees."
Posted on: Monday 8/23/2010 9:59am
Even though a study shows the federal government is gradually expanding the practice nationwide, patronage of the Southern Maryland Telework Centers is declining.
The three centers, in Waldorf, Prince Frederick and Laurel run by the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) currently host 78 workers, compared to 90 a year ago. CSM attributes the decline to a boost in the cost of renting a workstation, "which was $28 a day in 2008 but had reached $72 by Sept. 1, 2009."
The cost is worth it for one relative new comer to telework. Kimberly Savoy-Brown, a program management analyst for the U.S. Department of Education, is a client at the Waldorf center. "She got her first taste of relative freedom in April, when federal employees were urged to take leave or work from home to make room for attendees of a nuclear summit in Washington," reports the paper. She says she teleworks one day a week, but now "wishes it were more."
Posted on: Monday 8/16/2010 4:41am
Here's a quick look at the issues and the pros and cons:
1. Technical disconnects
WashTech: Federal workers "need government-provided portable devices, security software, management software and other tools" to get the job done.
Dorobek Insider: You "need surprisingly little to actually telework." A "basic laptop with wireless capability and a cellphone," should cover the essentials.
2. Disconnected employees
WashTech: "'In their 'work from home days,' they do not respond at all,' one reader wrote."
Dorobek Insider: Managers "have to change their mindset to focus on the results... to make it so that people can get the results," including meeting expectations that employees will respond to phone calls or e-mails.
3. Management matters
WashTech: "'Telephones and e-mail are good for communicating facts, but nuances are lost,'" says one manager."
Dorobek Insider: "(S)uccessful telecommuting programs are very results-oriented that have leaders who are focused on the end game, not the process itself.""
4. Bad apple? Bad news.
WashTech: The "process for dealing with underperforming feds leaves something to be desired and that many managers would rather just avoid it. As they see it, their best available option is to keep those employees on a short leash."
Dorobek Insider: "We're working against hundreds of years of management by walking around. . . . This is a change in mindset." Being an effective leader requires setting clear goals regardless of where the employee performs the work.
Posted on: Monday 8/9/2010 11:09am
Which is all well and good, you say, for the private sector. But what about the federal government? Could the tablet computer meet government needs when it comes to checking e-mail, sharing documents and accessing the Web?
Federal Computer Week reports the answer is being looked at very seriously across the federal government.
"A couple of agencies already list the iPad as an option on purchasing contracts," while NIST is looking at "how they can best be supported and secured," according to FCW.
While NASA "sees its potential value as an on-the-go platform," there are a few drawbacks noted, including "normal office products that are the core of normal computer use - i.e. Microsoft Office - are not available" for the iPad.
If you should decide there's enough room in your end-of-fiscal-year budget to take a few for a spin, "some vendors offer iPads on vehicles such as NASA's Solutions for Enterprisewide Procurement governmentwide acquisition contract," notes FCW.
SEWP program manager, Joanne Woytek tells Federal News Radio, don't wait to get your orders in. Just because they're open until midnight on September 30th doesn't mean you shouldn't get your order in as early as possible.