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7:51 pm, October 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.

Teleworkers: Orphans of the storm

Posted on: Thursday 2/13/2014 9:52am

On miserable, cold sleet-and-snow days, those of us who must report for work envy our lucky PJ-clad colleagues who are snugly teleworking from home.

But on really bad snow/ice days, when nonemergency government functions are shut down and workers allowed to stay home, the worm turns. Then, teleworkers envy their "nonessential" colleagues because they, the chosen, are expected to either work or take annual leave. No day off for them!

According to government figures, nearly half the nonpostal federal workforce is eligible to telework.

The winter of 2013-2014 isn't over yet. But it has already produced what may be a record number of shutdown days not only in D.C. — Wimp City to some people — but also in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston and New York. Birmingham, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., have taken hits too. Last week, what would be considered a light dusting in in the North, caused five-hour traffic jams in Atlanta. Many employers (including the government) were faulted for not keeping nonessential workers at home. Federal operations were impacted too.

So what do teleworkers have to say about the large number of snow days? Let's find out:

  • "I am telework ready. As such I am expected to be on the job and productive when my agency shuts down for any reason. I am grateful to be able to work from home, however I think that the people who consider us lucky forget that while they are sleeping late, we are on the job." — Cindy in D.C.

  • "Whenever anybody complained about their job, my father used to say 'That's why they call it work!' I have been known to say it myself. With that said, I think the media should point out, when we have weather closures, that large numbers of people are working both at home and at the office too. Calling it a government shutdown gives the wrong impression." — Mark with the IRS

  • "Hi Mike! We're dealing with the chilly temps out here in Wyoming too, but without the gridlock, and scary numbers of people on the roads on the way to/from work. We've had a couple of snow days for the schools, but not enough depth of snow to cancel the day here at the office. It's generally got to be well over a foot to bother us that much. Those who live outside of town, of course, have the option to telework or take leave when it's not safe to drive. We are actually sort of hoping that the deep freeze will stick around long enough to wipe out the pine beetles, and keep the lakes good and frozen for ice fishing." — Kat at the Forest Service


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

South Koreans are the hardest drinking bunch in the world, according to research firm Euromonitor International. South Koreans consume an average of 11.2 shots of hard liquor a week. Russians throw back just five shots a week on average.

(Time)


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How your IT shop can help/hurt your telework plans

Posted on: Sunday 12/18/2011 8:19pm

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio
@jzieglerWFED

Ok, so you've designed your telework program, you've identified who is eligible, and now it's time to implement the plan. But can you? Is your IT department set up to do so?

Mark Gibbs of CIO.com says, "many organizations' IT infrastructures aren't set up to make it easy to telework." In a recent blog post for the website, Gibbs said IT shops need to be proactive in order to make their companies' telework programs successful.

According to Gibbs, that means setting up a system where usage patterns and other important information about facilities, equipment and telework services can be monitored. "Without this kind of oversight there's a real danger of wasting money on over-provisioned services as well as wasting staff time when they have to use slow, under-provisioned services," Gibbs said.

He also recommends repeated, scheduled testing of an organization's telework infrastructure in addition to training all teleworkers how to use the equipment provided to them. More importantly, he said, IT departments should consult with the teleworkers themselves to find out what works, what doesn't and what could be improved.

Library of Congress, TIGTA offer telework security lessons

Posted on: Sunday 12/11/2011 8:42pm

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio
@jzieglerWFED

The Telework Enhancement Act turned one-year-old on Friday. But, just how far have agencies come and what kinds of lessons can those succeeding at telework offer others? The Library of Congress and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration offered some best practices during a recent Telework Exchange webcast.

Both agencies said security is key to making managers, employees and the government, as a whole, comfortable with telework.

George Jakabcin, the chief information officer for TIGTA, said all teleworkers must go through annual security awareness and privacy awareness training at his agency. They must also renew their telework agreements each year acknowledging their personal obligations for securing data in a telework environment. Jakabcin said all teleworkers at TIGTA also use a virtual private network (VPN) to access agency information from their telework locations.

Baha Akpinar, the telework expansion program manager at the Library of Congress, said his agency established a new laptop core configuration to deal with the security issues that telework can bring. Akpinar said the enhanced security features in the new setup have also been beneficial to non-teleworkers.

Over 500 of the Library's 3,500 employees now telework regularly - about 2-4 days per pay period, according to Akpinar. As for TIGTA, Jakabcin said 83 percent of its employees now participate in the agency's telework program. Of those, 50 percent are teleworking anywhere between 2-5 days per week.

Due to the increase in telework, Jakabcin said TIGTA has also been able to reduce its overall carbon footprint. The agency has closed 15 of its 86 locations and reduced the size of four others.

From a management perspective, Akpinar said for telework to be a success, there must be a level of "trust between supervisor and staff, and among colleagues," which he acknowledged is easier at some agencies. He said training for non-teleworkers on how to interact with their remote colleagues is an important part of his agency's telework plan as well.

Getting the most out of telework

Posted on: Sunday 12/4/2011 3:59pm

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

The federal government has made a huge push in the past year to get more federal employees on the telework bandwagon. The Telework Enhancement Act signed on Dec. 9, 2010, called on agencies to determine the telework eligibility status of every employee. To date, some agencies have done a better job at this than others.

Danette Campbell, the senior advisor for telework at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, spoke on a recent Federal News Radio panel discussion about some of her agency's successes and offered tips for federal managers still struggling with telework.

"I believe this initiative, it really is a paradigm shift," Campbell said. "It's going to take a manager who has excellent communication skills, excellent organizational skills, and is able to clearly communicate those expectations top down, side-to-side. But those are the skills that we need in the brick-and-mortar environment as well. I don't think that this thing called telework is really that difficult. It's just about being organized and making sure that you, as a manager, are communicating what you expect of your employees."

Christina Morrison, the manager of government marketing for Hewlett-Packard's Personal Systems Group, is a teleworker herself. She said building a good telework program is a process.

"Take the time, build your plan. Ask your peers. Reach out to somebody like Danette and ask them what has worked, what hasn't and learn from others. Take into consideration telework is a new skill set that needs to be taught to employees and to managers so that they know how work flow should be accomplished. Second, go and work with your IT department. Make sure you have the tools that you need to implement a telework program."

Dealing with security

For the federal managers worried about security risks associated with teleworking, Campbell reminded them it's really no different than securing computers used at headquarters. And, she said, all employees undergo extensive training before being allowed to telework from home.

"We ensure they have the non-IT telework training, which speaks to communicating in a virtual environment, managing expectations, etc., but we also have a very in-depth IT training. That IT training incorporates this issue surrounding security. We have a rules-of-the-road document that is not only on the USPTO intranet for people to access, that document is reviewed during the training. There is no way that an employee who has been deployed to telework does not really understand what the parameters are, what the guidelines are, and what the expectations are when they work remotely."

Morrison said it's not just about the security of the actual computers but also about who is around federal employees when they are working - one of the reasons she doesn't support teleworkers working in public places such as coffee shops. "Is somebody looking over your shoulder and reading something they shouldn't be reading? Or, are you taking a phone call maybe that you shouldn't have taken?"

As for where telework is headed, Campbell said she wants to see "agencies elevate telework as a business strategy to accomplish their agency mission and strategic goals. I hope that a few years down the road we are no longer talking about this thing we are now calling telework and it's just a way that we get the work done."

Top tips for managing teleworkers

Posted on: Sunday 11/27/2011 7:00pm

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."

Telework implementation not moving fast enough

Posted on: Sunday 11/20/2011 6:32pm

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

Almost a year after the Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law, a new survey shows 69 percent of IT executives don't believe the federal government is moving quick enough when it comes to implementing telework.

FedScoop surveyed more than 300 federal government and private sector executives for the survey.

According to the results, 9 in 10 federal managers trust their employees to telework but only 61 percent of feds said their managers actually allow them to telework.

"The results of the survey showed us that although government managers report trusting their employees to work remotely, the practices aren't necessarily in place to make this possible," said Goldy Kamali, founder and president of FedScoop.

43 percent of federal employees responding to the survey said they need better equipment and technology in order to telework effectively. Only 13 percent of those in industry said the same.

Respondents were also asked to name what they see as the top benefits to telework.

  • 89 percent said it saves them time.
  • 86 percent said it enhances their quality of life.
  • 79 percent said it saves them money.
  • 75 percent said it increases productivity.
  • 72 percent like telework for its environmental benefits.
  • 54 percent said it allows them to spend more time with their families.

RELATED STORIES:

Does telework hurt office dynamics? Depends whom you ask

Telework could cause employee exhaustion

Posted on: Monday 11/14/2011 10:36am

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

Employees with high levels of work-family conflict can be negatively impacted by telework, according to a new study.

"Individuals who telework more extensively experience more constant physical reminders of the conflict between work and family due to their greater presence in the home," said study author Timothy Golden of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "These serve as a continual irritant preventing psychological detachment and subsequent recovery, leading to higher levels of exhaustion."

This increased exhaustion can mean higher rates of absenteeism, turnover, illness and lower job performance, according to Golden.

Golden defines work-family conflict as stress that occurs when an employee's work interferes with his or her family life.

Golden's study found teleworkers with a higher level of work-family conflict suffered from more exhaustion, whereas those with less work-family stress benefited from telework. Golden found this to be true for employees who telework during traditional work hours (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) and those who worked from home outside of those hours.

Golden said managers may need to be cognizant of their employees home lives if telework is to work as intended.

316 people from a large computer company participated in Golden's study. The results can be found in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

MSPB offers advice on telwork

Posted on: Sunday 11/6/2011 7:11pm

Federal managers worry that telework could hurt office dynamics, according to the results of a recent survey from the Merit Systems Protection Board. However, MSPB says there are many benefits to telework as long as the process is managed effectively. This includes making sure supervisors have the right skills to manage the performance of their teleworkers and making sure agencies have the right technology available for employees who telework. MSPB also urges agency leaders to discuss telework amongst themselves and develop approaches to telework that will work for their individual departments.

"[O]rganizations need to identify and weigh the pros and cons of telework for their situations and customize approaches that will maximize benefits and minimize challenges," said MSPB chairman Susan Tsui Grundmann in a release. "Telework does not occur in a vacuum, and organizations need to find the right balance."

Federal News Radio recently asked federal employees a somewhat similar question in an informal, online survey. When asked whether telework hurts office dynamics, 24 percent of those that already telework one day per week or more said yes. However, 46 percent of non-teleworkers believe that telework damages office dynamics.

In addition to making recommendations to managers implementing telework policies, MSPB also offered advice for employees considering telework. At the top of its list—feds should consider whether telework is actually something that will work for them.

"This should include determination that your home environment is suitable for telework. You should also make sure you can accomplish the same quantity and quality of work while teleworking as when working in the office. Further, make sure you can maintain appropriate communication, teamwork, and work relationships..."

RELATED STORIES:

MSPB Report: "TELEWORK: Weighing the Information, Determining an Appropriate Approach"

Does telework hurt office dynamics? Depends whom you ask

GSA rolls out 'opt-out' telework policy

Posted on: Tuesday 11/1/2011 10:27am

Empty desks will be the new norm at the General Services Administration. The agency has adopted an opt-out telework policy.

Administrator Martha Johnson said nearly all employees will be able to work outside the office.

"We're assuming people can telework. It's for the manager and employee to sort out when that really doesn't make sense, like you're running the childcare center," she said. "We're assuming mobile work, telework is in your life, not out of your life, and working it that way rather than making the justification in the other direction."

She said the new policy makes work into a "team sport," with employees having to communicate more directly with each other than when they were sharing office space.

Does telework hurt office dynamics? Depends whom you ask

Posted on: Monday 10/24/2011 2:00pm

By Julia Ziegler
Federal News Radio

In the coming years, more and more federal government employees and members of the private sector are expected to telework. But how will a decrease in face-to-face, in-person contact change relationships between workers and how will it impact their ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks? According to the results of a Federal News Radio survey, it really depends whom you ask.

Teleworkers are more likely than non-teleworkers to believe that telework does not hurt office dynamics. Only 24 percent of those that telework at least one day a week said they strongly agree or somewhat agree that telework harms relationships between coworkers. But 46 percent of non-teleworkers agreed with the same statement.

837 people took Federal News Radio's online survey between Oct. 16-22, 2011. Of those that responded, 92 percent were federal employees, 6 percent were government contractors and 2 percent said they didn't fit into either category. 50 percent of respondents said they don't telework at all, 25 percent said they telework one day per week, 14 percent two days per week, and 11 percent said they telework three or more days a week.

The more someone teleworks also seems to have an effect on how close they believe they are with their coworkers. 72 percent of teleworkers believe they are just as close to their teleworking colleagues as their non-teleworking colleagues. Only 54 percent of non-teleworkers believe the same.

Teleworkers also are less likely to believe group work is more difficult when some members of the group are teleworking. Only 22 percent of those that telework three days or more per week strongly or somewhat agree that group work is negatively impacted when telework is involved. 38 percent of those that telework one or two days a week believe the same. However, 54 percent of non-teleworkers believe group work is more difficult.

While 50 percent of non-teleworkers strongly or somewhat disagree that face-to-face, in-person contact is needed to get their jobs done efficiently and quickly, the number is even higher for teleworkers. 72 percent of those that telework one or two days a week and 82 percent of those that telework three or more days a week believe that face-to-face contact with their colleagues isn't needed to get their jobs done.

Most respondents (87 percent) agree that access to the right technology helps maintain a good group dynamic while telework is in use. But the degree to which employees believe their agencies or companies have that technology in place differs based on how much someone teleworks. Only 47 percent of non-teleworkers believe their organizations have the right telework technology in place. However, 77 percent of those that telework one or two days a week and 82 percent of those that telework three or more days a week believe their agencies provide them with the right tools to help maintain a good group dynamic while teleworking.

RAW SURVEY RESULTS

Examine the results of Federal News Radio's survey through various filters.

Answers from all respondents

Answers from all teleworkers (those who telework at least 1 day a week)

Answers from those who telework 1 or 2 days a week

Answers from those who telework 3 or more days a week

Answers from non-teleworkers

  • 1
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