Federal Telework:

Office of Personnel Management's 2012 Telework Report Shows Opportunities for Improvement

GAO-13-298R: Published: Jun 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2013.

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Yvonne D. Jones
(202) 512-6806
jonesy@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) partially reported on two of the seven reporting requirements of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, 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.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires OPM to submit an annual report to Congress addressing the telework program of each executive agency. The act also required GAO 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.

To conduct this work, GAO reviewed OPM’s reporting requirements in the act, OPM’s 2012 report to Congress, and related documentation. GAO also interviewed OPM officials responsible for overseeing the report and held a discussion group with a random sample of members of the Small Agency Human Resources Council.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that OPM (1) in preparation for the 2014 telework report should provide goal setting assistance for agencies not yet able to report telework goals, including agencies which intend to establish non-participation goals but are not yet able to report on these goals. OPM should request in its data call that each of these agencies report by what year the agency will be able to report its goals, including each agency's timetable for complete reporting and the status of action steps and milestones they established to gauge progress; (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; and (3) improve the reliability of data collection by working with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council 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.

In summary, OPM partially concurred with our first recommendation, concurred with our second recommendation, and stated it has completed our third recommendation.

For more information, contact Yvonne D Jones at (202) 512-6806 or jonesy@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: While OPM has taken several actions in the attempt to implement the recommendation, it is premature to assess the results of these efforts. OPM has conducted several training sessions with agencies and added an appendix to its 2013 data call to assist agencies establish standards for setting and evaluating telework goals. Our analysis of OPM's 2012 telework report did not indicate a high number of agencies had set numeric goals, calling into question the value of OPM's techniques to assist agencies in setting goals. Since the time of GAO's report, the evidence OPM has provided continues to emphasis similar training techniques it has traditionally used with no evidence it has yielded improvements. We will review the status of this recommendation when OPM releases its 2014 telework report.

    Recommendation: In preparation for the 2014 telework report, OPM should 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. OPM should request in its data call that each of these agencies report by what year the agency will be able to report its goals, including each agency's timetable for complete reporting and the status of action steps and milestones they established to gauge progress.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: OPM added questions to its 2013 telework data call to gather the amount of cost savings and the method the agency used to assess the savings. When OPM issues its 2014 telework report to Congress in 2015, GAO will assess the extent to which OPM has identified cost savings and how agencies assess or verify the savings.

    Recommendation: OPM should 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.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: OPM has not taken any further actions and continues to state it has completed the recommendation. In follow up work we conducted in April 2014, OPM cited the same material it provided in its August 2013 response letter. We continue to believe OPM's actions do not demonstrate the recommendation has been implemented. OPM has not provided the evidence called for in the recommendation, namely (1) documented agreements with agencies, payroll providers, or the CHCO Council, or (2) a timetable to complete an automated tracking system or other reliable data gathering methods that can be validated by OPM. We followed-up with OPM in August and September 2014, and OPM confirmed there was no new information to report.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of data collection, OPM should work with the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council 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.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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