Telework can help recruit and retain a qualified federal workforce, enhance their productivity and flexibility; and reduce real estate, energy, environmental, and other costs.
Telework is a human capital strategy that is increasingly recognized as an important means to achieving a number of federal objectives, including effective strategic human capital management of the federal workforce, and a greater capability to continue operations during emergency events, as well as affording environmental, energy, and other benefits to society. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has said telework offers a greater work-life balance to better manage work and family obligations.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 made a large step forward in transforming the approach to telework by establishing a framework of requirements for executive agencies to meet in implementing telework. These requirements include notifying all employees of their eligibility to telework and establishing agency telework participation goals for the measurement and reporting of results.
The act requires OPM to submit an annual report to Congress addressing the telework program of each executive agency. It also required us to review OPM’s first report and submit a report to Congress on the progress each executive agency has made towards the goals established under the act. Additionally, we gathered information regarding challenges smaller agencies may have encountered in implementing telework programs.
In our review of OPM’s 2012 telework report, we found—
- OPM partially reported on two of the act’s seven reporting requirements, but did not report agency information for the five remaining requirements. This was because insufficient time had elapsed for all requirements of the act to be fully implemented and because agencies appeared to face challenges in measuring outcomes for some nonparticipation goals, according to OPM.
- OPM recognizes weaknesses in agency sources for telework participation and frequency data, but has not taken adequate steps to establish a completion date by which agencies will produce reliable data from employee time and attendance tracking systems, which OPM defines as the most reliable tracking method.
- The small agency discussion group reported telework challenges similar to those expressed by officials from larger agencies. These challenges include management resistance and technology limitations. In addition, officials from small agencies expressed particular concerns about office impacts when a teleworking employee has no backup in the workplace and about the limited funding available for information technology to support telework.
We recommended that OPM--
- 1. In preparation for the 2014 telework report, provide goal setting assistance for agencies not yet able to report telework goals, including agencies which intend to establish nonparticipation goals but are not yet able to report on these goals.
- 2. Include in its 2014 report to Congress the amount of cost savings resulting from the impacts of telework each agency may have identified, and the method the agency used to assess or verify the savings.
- 3. Improve the reliability of data collection by working with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCO) and its leadership to develop documented agreements and a timetable to complete an automated tracking system or other reliable data gathering method that can be validated by OPM.
OPM partially concurred with our first recommendation, concurred with our second recommendation, and stated that it has completed our third recommendation. However, OPM has yet to establish documented agreements with the CHCO Council that would assure OPM that it will obtain the reliable agency data necessary to establish an automated tracking system. While OPM has established a date for reporting reliable data, it has not included dates for completing key activities it has identified, such as comparing telework participation, frequency, and eligibility data collected through its annual agency telework data call, with data collected through automated payroll systems.