TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. What is Telework?
Telework-also referred to as telecommuting, flexiwork, and flexiplace-is an alternative work arrangement for employees to conduct all or some of their work away from the primary workplace. This concept can be applied to a variety of work experiences. The work location might be a residence, a telecenter (described later in this document), an office closer to the employee's residence, or another acceptable location. The telework schedule may be fixed or episodic.
Managers and supervisors are key players in the telework process. They set the parameters of the telework arrangement and define telework for their organizations. Studies show that clear guidance and direction increase the chances of success for telework programs.
Public Law 106-346 (FY 2001 Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act), Section 359 states that, "Each executive agency shall establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency may participate in telecommuting to the extent possible without diminished employee performance." The law defines telecommuting as "any arrangement in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned duties at home or other work sites geographically convenient to the residence of the employee," and eligible employee as "any satisfactorily performing employee of the agency whose job may typically be performed at least one day per week at an alternative workplace."
As Congressman Wolf, a leading champion of telework, has said in a 2001 press release:
"… teleworking offers additional benefits for both employees and employers. According to the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) telework results in increased productivity and worker retention. AT&T, which has more than 25% of its workforce teleworking on a regular basis, has found fewer people taking sick leave, better worker retention and higher productivity since making teleworking an option to employees."
An employee who teleworks may perform work duties at home or at another worksite away from the primary office. These locations constitute alternative worksites. They can be in the employee's home, a telecenter, or another location where there is connectivity to the primary office site and there is an office setting conducive to accomplishing work requirements. The focus should be on providing worksites at locations that reduce employee commuting time and inconvenience while allowing employees to accomplish their work effectively.
Opportunity to Telework
The OPM annual telework survey asks agencies to identify the numbers of employees "offered the opportunity to telework." Agencies ask what OPM means when it asks how many employees are offered the opportunity. Congressman Frank Wolf has stated in a July 2001 letter to the Director of OPM, "Simply put, agencies must specifically identify positions which would be appropriate for teleworking one day each week and offer those employees the option of participating in such an arrangement." This means that supervisors should extend the option of teleworking to all employees they determine are eligible, using their established criteria.
A telecenter is one type of alternative worksite. Typically, a telecenter is a facility that houses workstations that are rented or leased by the employer. One advantage of a telecenter is that employees can work closer to home, reducing commuting time and allowing more time for family and community life. Another advantage is that telecenters often have workstations with state-of-the-art technology, docking stations, conference space, and other amenities. They provide a business-like work setting for the employee who needs to invite clients to the office. Some employees prefer to work in a telecenter rather than at home because they find the professional atmosphere conducive to effective job performance, or because their homes are not suitable for setting up a home office. There are several telecenters around the country. Some are operated by the General Services Administration (GSA), others by military reserve components, and still others by private-sector businesses. The following website has a current listing: http://www.telework.gov/.
Types of Telework
Full Time Telework: The employee completes all or almost all duties outside of a traditional office setting. This may include some work done at home, in clients' offices, or at a telecenter and occasionally coming to the office for a meeting or planning session; however, the duties lend themselves to work away from the office. This kind of work provides for the potential savings based on shared use of current space or cost avoidance for office rent that otherwise would have to be expended. This type of telework can help agencies retain valued employees such as Foreign Service or military spouses who can't remain in the geographical area of the office. This is also referred to as occupational or home-based work.
Part Time Telework: The employee teleworks on a regularly scheduled basis. This may be one or more days a week, every two weeks or several days in a month. This also may lend itself to savings in office space as part-time teleworkers can rotate and share office space.
Episodic or Situational Telework: The employee teleworks on an irregular basis. The telework opportunity may be a result of a medical problem, reasonable accommodation, or the need to be focused on a special project. Other situations may develop that makes it beneficial for the employee and supervisor to agree on an episodic telework opportunity. This type of telework also is essential for potentially volatile situations e.g., during World Bank/IMF mass demonstrations. Telework should be an integral part of any agency's plans for Continuity of Operations (COOP). Telework allows the Federal Government to remain responsive to the Nation at all times.
The History of Telework
The International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) cites 1972 as the first significant date in the history of telework. In that year, Jack Nilles became a researcher at the University of Southern California, focusing on the telecommunications-transportation tradeoff after teleworking as a consulting rocket scientist in the U.S. Air Force Space Program in the early 1960s. As a result of his highly influential research, publications and other professional activities, he is known as the "Father of Telecommuting/Telework."
Promotion of telework in the Federal Government began in January 1990 when the President's Council on Management Improvement approved guidelines for a one-year Federal Flexible Workplace Pilot Project. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) implemented the pilot on October 1, 1990, to determine whether flexible workplace arrangements could assist OPM in recruiting, motivating and retaining workers while reducing costs associated with sick leave, space usage, and transportation. The pilot project was successful. Telework arrangements worked well and provided significant benefits when implemented with employees who were proven performers.
On July 11, 1994, a Presidential directive called on each Executive department and agency to "establish a program to encourage and support the expansion of flexible family-friendly work arrangements including…telecommuting and satellite work locations." In 1996, the President's Management Council endorsed a National Telecommuting Initiative led by the U.S. Department of Transportation and GSA. Their mission was to increase the use of telework by all American employers, both private and public. Between 1995 and 1997, the number of people teleworking grew by 3 million.
In a June 21, 1996, Presidential Memorandum, Executive departments and agencies were directed to "review their personnel practices and develop a plan of action to utilize the flexible policies already in place and, to the extent feasible, expand their ability to provide their employees…opportunities to telecommute." Finally, in October 2000, Public Law 106-346, Section 359 and the accompanying Conference Report established the mandate for Federal agencies to establish policies for implementing telework opportunities and dramatically increase their numbers of teleworkers.
The Business Case for Telework
Telework has a long history as a proven program providing benefits for both employer and employee. Research shows that telework improves the quality of work/life and job performance, i.e., reduces office overcrowding and provides a distraction-free environment for reading, thinking, and writing. Studies have also found an improvement in retention, leave usage, and productivity. ITAC conducted a study and found that telework reduced turnover by an average of 20 percent, boosted productivity by up to 22 percent, and trimmed absenteeism by 60 percent. Additionally, it allowed companies to adhere more closely to the Clean Air Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other studies produced similar findings.
An October 1999 study by Telework America showed that employees who telework can save their agencies up to $10,000 per year in reduced absenteeism and retention costs. A study by the American Management Association found that the absenteeism costs were reduced by 63 percent, an average of $2,000 saved for every employee. The State of Arizona evaluated their telework program and found senior managers identified increased efficiency, greater productivity, and enhanced employee morale as the biggest program benefits. Many Federal agencies with long-standing telework programs have found a decrease in the need for office space. These factors all impact the cost of doing business. AT&T estimates its telework program saves them $25 million annually in real estate expenses. For employees, cost savings from reduced commuting as well as improved morale and work productivity were identified as benefits.
As more and more Federal employees reach retirement age, agencies need to expand their efforts to identify, recruit, and retain well qualified personnel. Telework can open the door to Federal employment for all talented individuals who have the needed skills. For some, because of disabilities, geographical location, or family responsibilities, a daily commute may be too challenging to be practical. Teleworking also enhances agencies' abilities to recruit and retain employees who simply prefer to reduce commuting time because they would prefer to spend the time in family and community activities. Younger workers, who seem to value work/life balance even more than older generations of workers, are especially likely to find this flexibility appealing. Well qualified individuals who live in distant suburbs might find Federal employment attractive if they were not required to commute to the city on a daily basis.
Telework for People with Disabilities
President George W. Bush, introducing his New Freedom Initiative on February 1, 2001, stated, "I am committed to tearing down the remaining barriers to equality that face Americans with disabilities." People with disabilities are a valuable employment pool for Federal jobs. With new assistive technologies available, an increasing number of people with disabilities are now well qualified to perform Federal work, but they may have great difficulty commuting to a Federal office building. The person may lack the physical strength or mobility necessary for a commute via public transportation, or may not, because of vision requirements, be eligible for a driver's license.
A U.S. Department of Labor study published in 2000 also identified employment of persons with disabilities as a societal benefit resulting from telework arrangements. Further, it noted that, despite the strong economy, millions of residents in urban and isolated rural and Native American communities remained unemployed. The study suggested that telework could improve the employability of all of these groups. It also reported that telework is extremely useful in decreasing traffic congestion and air pollution.
In addition to providing job opportunities for those who already have disabilities, telework allows people who have partially recovered from injuries and/or illnesses to return to work more quickly because they can perform their duties at off-site locations. Additionally, it is a work arrangement that supports employees who have temporary or continuing health problems or who might otherwise have to retire on disability.
Benefits to Society
An increase in telework arrangements can decrease costs for road construction and public transportation if a requisite number of personnel telework. Cyclical energy shortage problems could be ameliorated. Decreased costs for fuel and transportation, as well as heating and air conditioning office space, would provide significant savings.
Nationwide, concerns about traffic congestion and its impact on limited energy sources and limited transportation resources are escalating. Traffic congestion and long commutes detract from efforts to improve recruitment and retention of Federal employees.
In order to effectively address some of the above challenges and to enhance the Federal telework program, Congress mandated that Federal agencies step up their efforts to expand telework (Public Law 106-346, Section 359). In summary, the timing is right for the growth and development of telework as an option beneficial to all.
Telework and Agency Contingency Plans
The ability to telework has been, and will continue to be, very important in times of emergency situations. Therefore, agencies should make telework part of their continuity of operations planning.
In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, it has become increasingly evident that Federal agencies need to consider a full range of possibilities related to how and where their work is accomplished. Telework has proven to be an important option for efficiently accomplishing the work with the least amount of disruption. Through the use of alternative worksites such as telecenters and employees' homes, employees who were displaced because of the terrorist attacks and subsequent anthrax problems were able to continue working. Employees were able to use laptop computers, cell phones, and other technologies.
Agencies should consider telework in the event of emergencies and plan ahead for such events. They should inventory their equipment, discuss contingency plans with staff, and periodically assess their emergency procedures. Routine emergency exercises should also be held to assess the potential effectiveness of their emergency plans.
II. Getting Started
The Telework Program Manager
It is best to appoint a committee to plan your telework program, monitor progress, and assess the need for changes and improvements that will increase your chances for success. The committee will function more effectively if one person serves as the telework program manager and manages the overall telework program. Additionally, the quality of your program will be improved, as this person can ensure you meet all reporting requirements, track agency efforts to promote telework, and serve as a champion for telework.
The first action for the telework program manager is to establish a planning committee composed of agency stakeholders. Possible members include representatives from human resources, including employee relations, staffing, labor-relations, EEO, and work/life; legal; information technology; management; and labor organizations. Employees should also be included. This group can help establish program goals, objectives, written policies, and procedures. It is important to quantify goals and objectives at the beginning of the program. This will be helpful when you conduct your program evaluation. The committee will also develop an implementation plan and schedule with milestones.
The committee needs to address a wide variety of issues. They need to determine the level of technological support the agency will provide to employees who telework, such as the provision of computers, printers and telephone lines, and access to agency computers from remote sites and the Internet. They need to address the acquisition, maintenance, and repair of any equipment provided. Issues surrounding equipment and data security must also be resolved.
The committee may recommend surveying the workforce to measure the level of interest in telework, identify perceived impediments to telework arrangements, and solicit suggestions to enhance the success of the program. Additionally, the committee should develop marketing and implementation plans. Research has shown training is key to the success of telework. The committee should determine what training will be provided and how to make certain everyone receives the information they need to improve the chances for success.
The group should provide an initial program budget recommendation and make appropriate changes as the planning proceeds and the scope of the program is determined. It is critical that the budget be linked to the telework program goals and objectives. For example, if a program goal is to decrease staff turnover, a study to identify the impact of telework on retention would be appropriate. Any costs associated with the study would be tied to this goal.
While the committee has significant responsibility in many areas, its major tasks are the establishment of three important elements of the program: the policy, training plan, and evaluation plan.
Good communication is the essential element of a successful telework program. All of the participants need to know what the guidelines and expectations are and who is in charge of the various aspects of the program. Written policies and procedures are needed to ensure understanding and avoid misunderstanding about the terms and conditions of telework. Policies should cover short term as well as continuing telework arrangements.
A review of the current policies of other agencies will give you an idea of what should be included in your policy. Your policy should outline your goals and objectives, as well as the benefits to your organization and to employees. Program parameters should be defined, including the positions or aspects of positions that are appropriate for telework. You will need to determine what forms or documentation you need for employees to submit, such as a telework contract/agreement and a form for borrowing equipment. A copy of an assessment tool that can be used by both employees and supervisors to measure their potential for success with telework should be included.
You also need to identify the points of contact for all issues pertaining to telework, including personnel and information technology. Determine what the plan is for contacting these people if assistance is needed and whether the employee contacts them directly or contacts the supervisor.
You must define the official duty station. Changing an employee's duty station may affect the employee's pay rate and travel benefits. Agencies must make official duty station determinations consistent with the law and OPM regulations and guidance.
The issue of core hours must be addressed and outlined in the telework policy. Address the following questions: Are there core hours that a teleworker must work? Are these hours consistent with the core hours for a non-teleworker? If not, why not? Are there core days when all employees must work in the office? What is the process if a teleworker needs assistance from office staff?
A policy should include the following elements:
The Training Plan
Training should be provided for managers and supervisors as well as employees. It should focus on program goals and objectives. For managers and supervisors, clearly address the business case for the agency plan to integrate telework as a workplace flexibility. Telework typically involves a cultural change and the training should address this issue and its effect on the total work environment.
Review telework policy, procedures, and techniques for managing remote workers. Address issues surrounding work planning and scheduling. Most importantly, present typical barriers to telework and discuss possible solutions. Emphasize the importance of good communication as this will be key to the success of a telework program. If you are conducting in-person training, encourage participation by attendees and make certain you allow a significant period of time for questions and answers.
For employees, make it clear that their ability to accomplish the workload and minimize obstacles is essential to succeeding in the program. Describe good communication and work planning techniques. Employees will need to communicate effectively with their supervisor and their coworkers as well as organize their telework time effectively. Give an introduction to the program, review success strategies, and focus on getting an effective program started. Do a step-by-step review of the program and its requirements. Several slide training programs available through OPM and the website, www.telework.gov, provide a wealth of training material. You can adapt these to meet your specific agency needs. (See Appendix B)
Evaluating the Agency Program
Key issues for evaluation for most agencies include the effect of telework on productivity, operating costs, employee morale, recruitment, and retention. External issues, such as the impact of telework on traffic flow, air pollution, and mass transit use, are also important, but are more likely to be evaluated in a community effort through a consortium of interested organizations than by the organization.
It is essential that you create an evaluation plan before beginning a telework program. If you do not build evaluation into your plan from the beginning, you are missing a critical opportunity to measure the success of your program. This plan should be based on quantifiable program goals and objectives to allow for ease of measurement.
There are several measurement strategies that you might include in your evaluation plan. First, you can compare teleworkers and non-teleworkers on selected measures at one point in time. Second, you can conduct pre- and post- measurements on the teleworkers alone, conducting selected measurements before they begin teleworking and at regular points afterward. To be thorough, you might choose to use both approaches at once, measuring both teleworkers and non-teleworkers before and after the teleworkers have begun to telework. In this way, you will have a degree of control over extraneous factors that might affect your results. Comparing the teleworkers and non-teleworkers can help you refine your findings.
Many specific measures can be used to assess the impact of teleworking. To evaluate productivity, you might want to measure average scores on performance appraisals. It is also very useful to identify quantifiable tasks and determine how many of these can be accomplished in an office setting and how many can be accomplished in a telework setting over the course of a day, or other appropriate time period. For example, an employee may typically complete four reports per day in the office; however, the employee may be able to complete six reports per day in the telework setting. Another example is that it may take an employee two weeks to write the office newsletter when working in the office, but only one week in the telework setting because of fewer interruptions. You may wish to measure the effectiveness of the telework arrangement by surveying co-workers. These surveys can measure their perceptions of how well the telework arrangement is working.
There are many ways to measure the impact of telework on operating costs. You may want to measure sick leave usage, workers' compensation costs, emergency leave requests, and/ or transit subsidy expenses. In addition to these measures on individual employees, anecdotal data may also be helpful. You may find that with work efficiencies created through telework, an office does not need to fill a vacant position, or you may need less space. In evaluating the costs of teleworking, allow sufficient time for implementation before studying costs. In the initial months of telework, there are typically increased costs for logistical support. After a sufficient period of program implementation, costs savings are often noted.
To evaluate morale, recruitment, and retention, you can use several measurement techniques, including focus groups, questionnaires, and surveys. For example, you can ask employees to rate their degree of satisfaction with their working conditions, productivity, etc. You can ask how important various factors are in their decision to stay with the agency. You may want to survey all of your employees about what led them to choose their jobs and stay with them. You may want to focus on new hires, placing a small survey in the packet they are issued at their new employees' orientation and asking what role various benefits and flexibilities may have played in their decision to choose the agency.
In addition to looking at overall morale and retention, it is important to measure specific aspects of satisfaction with telework. As in measuring costs, it is important to take enough time, asking the same questions at several points in time, such as three months, six months, etc. One approach is to develop a small survey asking employees how they believe telework will benefit them. After six months, you can ask them to look at the initial survey and identify if they did or did not experience these benefits. An example of such an employee survey can be found in Appendix E. Appendix F is a similar survey for supervisors.
III. Overcoming Supervisory Challenges
Employee Suitability and Selecting Employees
One of the major challenges for supervisors is determining who is a candidate for telework. As a starting point, you, the supervisor, should view all positions and employees as eligible for telework. As a supervisor, it is important that you make good decisions about which employees have potential as teleworkers. Sometimes it is difficult to discuss this with an employee. You may anticipate that an interested employee is not really a good candidate for a telework situation. You may be concerned that if you let one person telework, all of your employees will want to telework. You may worry about control of the workforce and workload. These are legitimate concerns. Remember that you decide whether a position and an employee are appropriate for telework. To assist you in your decision, we suggest you use an employee screening tool such as the telework assessment tool in Appendix G. Employees who telework must be very well organized and have effective communication skills.
The Decision Process
The decision process may be made easier by using a screening tool that both employee and supervisor complete and then use as a basis for discussion. The value of a screening tool for the employee is that it can help the employee understand why he or she may not be a suitable candidate in a particular job for telework. Screening tools also provide a common source of information that can be used to generate a positive discussion between employees and their supervisors. The tool provided in Appendix G allows you to rate an employee on characteristics that lead to success in telework and then discuss the results with them. The ability for the employee to be flexible, be a self-starter, and enjoy the solitude of working at home should be discussed.
If you determine that an employee can adjust to a telework situation, approval should be given. If you have concerns, they need to be clearly articulated. If they are significant enough that you cannot approve the employee's request to telework, develop a plan with goals the employee must meet in order to be considered for a telework arrangement at a later time.
As a supervisor, your decision process will be driven by your agency's policy and the stipulations it makes for employees considered appropriate for telework, as well as your own assessment. It is important to be consistent in making your decisions.
Initially, a particular position may not appear to be compatible with a telework arrangement; however, if the position is broken down into individual tasks, you may be able to identify tasks that could be accomplished in a telework setting. Work suitability depends on job content, rather than job title, type of appointment, or work schedule.
Telework is feasible for (1) work that requires thinking and writing, such as data analysis, reviewing grants or cases, and writing regulations, decisions, or reports; (2) telephone-intensive tasks, such as setting up a conference, obtaining information, and contacting customers; and (3) computer-oriented tasks, such as programming, data entry, and word processing. Positions included in a Government-wide project on telework conducted in 1990 included writer/editor, scientist, investigator, psychologist, environmental engineer, budget analyst, tax examiner, and computer scientist.
Some work may not be suitable for teleworking. This is the case for jobs that require the employee's physical presence on the job. It is also true for jobs in which the employees need to have extensive face-to-face contact with their supervisor, other employees, clients, or the public. Positions that require access to material that cannot be moved from the regular office may not be suitable for telework. Also, there may be security issues that prevent the work from being accomplished at an alternative worksite.
Your challenge as a supervisor is to consider each position thoroughly and determine whether there is any potential to create a telework opportunity. The telework frequently might be for one day a week, or one day every two weeks. What is critical is that any position is not automatically ruled out as telework-suitable.
IV. The Supervisor's Role in Making It Happen
In Chapter 3, we reviewed the role of the supervisor in selecting candidates for telework opportunities. This is one aspect of your responsibility as a supervisor in making telework a success. You might feel somewhat overwhelmed initially with the changes and challenges that you face. If you approach this in a gradual fashion, giving yourself time to work through new issues, success is very likely. Interestingly, not all employees really want to telework. Many recognize their inability to work in a non-structured environment. Others express concerns about social isolation. If you ask employees why they are not interested, typically they will identify a concern or shortcoming in one of the factors included in the telework assessment (Appendix G).
Helping Employees Change
When initiating a telework arrangement, you need to help your employees adapt to this culture change in the beginning stages of implementation. This can be accomplished by sharing information and ensuring that employees receive training so they become familiar with some of the typical telework challenges and solutions. Your agency should provide you with step-by-step guidance in the implementation process, including necessary training materials and forms.
You need to make certain your staff has an opportunity to review this material and raise issues before they come to a decision about whether or not they want to be considered as telework candidates. Once they make that decision and you review the assessment survey with them, a determination can be made about whether or not they should begin to telework.
The Telework Agreement
Your agency should provide you with its recommended telework agreement between supervisor and employee. This agreement should be written so everyone has a clear understanding of the program parameters (see Appendix H). It needs to identify the work products that will be completed during the telework arrangement with expected delivery dates for each product. If status reports on projects are required, they should be stipulated in the agreement. The telework time schedule should be clearly noted, including core days and hours, and the telework site should be identified.
Review the list of items your agency is willing to provide for the employee and determine which ones the employee will need. These may include additional phone lines, office connectivity, a computer, software, and a printer. It is best if these are written out and the employee can select from the list. It is also beneficial if safety guidelines (see Appendix J) are attached to the agreement. It is essential to review each of these documents with the employee and make certain both employee and supervisor agree on the contents.
Maintaining Balance in the Office
It is important to address issues of concern expressed by employees who do not telework. There may be issues regarding fairness and equity in work assignments and ensuring that office personnel are not expected to undertake all new tasks that arise during the course of the day. Teleworkers may fear being forgotten or overlooked for choice assignments, training opportunities, or promotions. These issues should be discussed as frequently as necessary at staff meetings with everyone in attendance.
The use of group email notifications is important since they minimize the risk that someone will be left out of the communication loop. Obviously supervisors need to ensure adequate office coverage at all times. A computer-based schedule for all employees to input scheduled events, leave, telework days, etc., can be most useful. It will give everyone access to a master schedule and help make certain office coverage is in place. Meetings should be held on the core day when everyone is in the office. The supervisor's challenge is to ensure balance between the needs and desires of employees who telework and those who do not.
As the supervisor, you must clearly articulate the rules for use of leave and the leave approval process. Teleworkers are expected to adhere to the same policies and procedures as non-teleworkers, including those that address overtime.
The supervisor's roles are teacher, coach, and mentor. They provide guidance and reassurance and make certain communication channels are open. They also have the responsibility of periodically reviewing the status of staff members and making certain they are meeting their performance standards. If necessary, they provide guidance for improving performance. Supervisors should make certain that the entire staff has the computer skills necessary to telework. Ultimately, they determine if a teleworker is complying with policy and procedures and should terminate the process if the teleworker is not doing so.
The result should be a positive work environment for everyone. Supervisors should also expect to see benefits such as decreased use of sick leave, decreased unscheduled annual leave, a decrease in workers' compensation cases, and improved morale.
V. Performance Appraisal
How Will Performance Appraisal be Different?
There should be no discernable difference between managing the performance of a teleworker and managing the employee who works at the main office. The processes for managing the performance of all employees should include:
A good supervisor who successfully does these things should have little problem managing teleworkers. Supervisors who do not have good performance management skills will probably be unsuccessful at managing teleworker performance and are probably already unsuccessful at managing employees in general. A telework environment puts the spotlight on the performance management skills of supervisors.
Planning Work and Setting Expectations
Supervisors should use the performance appraisal process and the employee's performance plan to plan work and set expectations. Supervisors and employees should clearly define what the employee is to accomplish and ensure that the performance elements in the employee's performance plan align with and support organizational goals. We recommend that at least part of an employee's performance plan focus on results, such as accomplishments, products, or services provided. Results are especially important to measure for teleworkers since it may be hard for supervisors to observe activities, behaviors, or demonstrated competencies. Performance plans also should include performance standards that are measurable, observable, or at least verifiable. If employees know what they are supposed to do, and how well they are supposed to do it, the supervisor has set the stage for successful performance - whether the employee works inside or outside the office.
Monitoring performance includes measuring performance and providing feedback. In a telework situation (as in any work situation), measuring the results of employee efforts rather than their activities can be more efficient and effective. Quantity, quality, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness are four general measures that supervisors should review. Once supervisors and employees establish performance measures, communicating performance on those measures should be frequent. Employees need feedback on their performance in order to maintain good performance and to improve overall. Because teleworkers are not close at hand to receive quick, informal feedback, supervisors will need to make conscious efforts to give feedback using methods in addition to face-to-face feedback, such as emails, phone calls and faxes.
In addition to supervisors providing feedback, employees need to keep supervisors informed about work progress. This is especially true for teleworkers. Good communications between supervisors and employees are essential for successfully completing work and are especially necessary in a telework environment.
Developing Employee Skills
By using appropriate screening methods as discussed in Chapter 3, employees should already have the skills they need in order to telework successfully. But, as with all other employees, supervisors need to be aware of employee training and developmental needs. Supervisors should compare employee performance to the expectations established in employee performance plans and analyze which developmental opportunities the employee needs to perform successfully or to exceed expectations. In particular, teleworkers and their supervisors should be alert to training and developmental opportunities that work well in teleworking environments, such as distance training or self-study training.
Almost all employees must be appraised, generally annually. Supervisors should appraise all employees' performance against the elements and standards established in employee performance plans. If the elements and standards are measurable, observable, or verifiable, and if they focus on accomplishments rather than activities, the supervisor will find it easier to appraise employee performance, especially in a telework environment.
Particularly in situations where teleworking employees work off-site most of the time, supervisors need to take care that these employees still feel they are part of the office. Maintaining good communications is one important way to do this. Another way is to ensure that supervisors recognize the good performance of these teleworkers. Supervisors should not let teleworkers feel as if their performance doesn't matter or that no one ever notices their achievements. All employees want to feel that their work is appreciated. Recognition should always be part of the supervisor's performance management tool bag. Maintaining performance levels and meeting improvement goals is a requirement defined in telework agreements. To ensure this requirement is met, supervisors and employees must work together. Supervisors must practice top-notch performance management skills. Teleworkers must be responsible for keeping supervisors informed of the status of products or services.
Finally, managers should discuss the impact of telework arrangements with the entire staff and should make certain that management addresses relevant concerns immediately. If the work unit is not accomplishing the work as expected, managers may need to make adjustments in telework arrangements. The decision to approve telework is a management decision.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is committed to providing agencies, managers, supervisors, and employees with current guidance and support to facilitate the use of telework in the Federal sector. Attention to several key factors will lead to success.
Strong leadership on the issue of telework is essential. Federal policy makers, managers, supervisors, employees, and employee representatives must work together and invest their efforts in the success of this program.
Communication is critical. It must be clear, frequent, and positive among all parties. Flexibility is essential to achieve success in telework arrangements. There are often initial roadblocks and challenges to be overcome. As with any new idea or concept, success comes if the challenges are met.
We have provided you with guidance on the essential elements of the telework arrangement. We remain available to assist you in your planning, implementation, and continuing efforts to expand telework in the Federal Government.
U.S. Government Telework Site at http://www.telework.gov/
OPM Telework Study at http://www.opm.gov/studies/index.htm
Defense Logistics Agency's Telework Training for Supervisors at http://www.drms.dla.mil/telework/supervisorguide.pdf
International Telework Association and Council at http://www.workingfromanywhere.org/
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Commuter Connection at http://www.mwcog.org/commuter/ccindex1.html
British Telework at http://www.teleworking-survey.co.uk/participants.html
A variety of research studies at http://www.engr.ucdavis.edu/~its/telecom/publist.html
State of Washington study at http://www.commuterchallenge.org/research.html
Department of Labor study at http://www.dol.gov/asp/telework/p1_1.htm
Net Inc. at http://www.netinc-usa.com/telework/telelink.htmJoAnn Pratt and Associates at http://www.joannepratt.com/TeleworkBibliography.htm
The General Services Administration (GSA) contracted with Booz/Allen/Hamiliton to conduct a study of home-based telework technology barriers. The study is the sixth and final report submitted as part of Booz Allen's Analysis of Technology Barriers to Home-Based Telework.
The report was finalized and released in April 2002. The study identified telework technology barriers and the results were used to propose solutions in order to make telework practical to Federal workers.
Recommendations are primarily directed toward management behavior concerning technology issues impacting telework implementation.