Federal Workforce:

Agencies' Policies and Views on Flexiplace in the Federal Government

GGD-97-116: Published: Jul 3, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of flexiplace since the completion of the pilot, focusing on: (1) federal efforts to promote flexiplace; (2) federal agencies' policies and the extent to which they permit flexiplace; (3) the extent to which federal employees have used flexiplace, as well as the characteristics of these employees and the work they have done under flexiplace; (4) whether agencies and federal employees' unions have identified any barriers that inhibit flexiplace implementation; and (5) whether agencies believe that flexiplace has caused operational difficulties, including abuse of flexiplace.

GAO noted that: (1) the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), General Services Administration (GSA), and Department of Transportation (DOT) have assumed lead roles in promoting flexiplace; (2) in addition, DOT and GSA provide leadership for an interagency working group formed as part of the National Telecommuting Initiative Action Plan in January 1996; (3) a goal of the plan is to increase the number of federal flexiplace participants by the end of fiscal year 1998 to 60,000 or about 3 percent of the federal civilian workforce, a percentage roughly equivalent to conservative estimates of telecommuting in the private sector; (4) DOT also promotes flexiplace and distributes flexiplace literature to the general public as part of its effort to decrease transportation-associated congestion and pollution; (5) the 21 policies GAO reviewed varied in their coverage, generally applying to personnel within individual departmental and independent agencies, one or more federal regions, or specific Department of Defense locations; (6) because of limitations within these policies, however, about 28,000 of the employees covered by flexiplace policies were, in effect, excluded from flexiplace participation; (7) limitations restricted participation to the medically disabled or members of a certain occupation; (8) in contrast, despite the absence of formal policies at five locations GAO visited, some of the managers there permitted flexiplace; (9) flexiplace use appears to have increased since OPM's 1993 estimate of 3,000 to 4,000 participants; (10) a survey completed in July 1996 by the President's Management Council estimated that there were 9,000 telecommuting participants; (11) agency officials told GAO that most flexiplace participants' occupational categories were professional in nature, such as engineer, attorney, management and program analyst, and computer specialist; (12) according to agency officials, writing, reading, telephoning, and computer work were the most common tasks performed by flexiplace participants; (13) agency officials and union representatives identified management resistance as the greatest barrier to implementing flexiplace programs; (14) they also recognized that some jobs do not lend themselves to flexiplace arrangements and cited other barriers, such as a lack of computers at alternative work sites, the handling of sensitive data, employee reluctance or indifference with regard to participation, and the lack of a formal flexiplace policy; and (15) agency officials believed that few operational arose from flexiplace.

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