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Telecommuting Options in Government Jobs

Telecommuting Options in Government Jobs

Dan Woog / Monster.com

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a reputation for secrecy and data protection. Yet that organization was one of the first in the United States – in either the public or private sector – to embrace telecommuting.

But the IRS is not the only arm of the federal government embracing telecommuting; many agencies have far outpaced the private sector in adopting this alternative work arrangement.

For those interested in telecommuting, here’s a closer look at what Uncle Sam provides.

Government Outpaces Private Sector in Adopting Telecommuting Policies

The government defines telecommuting – also called telework – as “the ability to do your work at a location other than your ‘official duty station’…on a routine, regular and recurring basis” one or more days a week.

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“We think of the federal government as the mother of all bureaucracies," says telework consultant Gil Gordon. "But it knows what telecommuting is, and it does it well.”

According to CDW Government’s third annual survey, federal government’s adoption of telework outpaces private sector adoption by a 3-to-1 margin. In 2007, 44 percent of federal employees surveyed said they had the option to telework, compared to 15 percent of those in the private sector. Sixty-two percent of federal agencies now have written policies covering telework.

Gordon notes that while the government operates in a different regulatory environment than private business – Civil Service rules control work practices, and many workplaces are unionized – the administrative process, training procedures and reactions to telework by managers and employees are all “very positive.”

Why Government Embraces Telework

The federal government got into telecommuting in the late 1980s, when the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) took a serious look at the arrangement. Early trials were conducted in half a dozen agencies, including the General Services Administration and Department of Defense. (As for the private sector, Gordon says, telework had been tried “in fits and starts” as far back as the ’70s.) At the same time, state governments studied telecommuting; California, for example, launched an innovative program for Sacramento employees in the ’80s.

Why?

For the same reasons as those of the private sector, says Gordon. Technology had advanced and many cities were grappling with problems of air quality, traffic congestion and related stress and tension.

Add to that the recent challenges of attracting and retaining top talent, and the reasons for offering teleworking arrangements to employees have continued to increase.

Where Telecommuting Is Most Prevalent

Right now, Gordon says, the best governmental workplaces for telecommuting are relatively small agencies, like the Patent and Trademark Office, and various units of larger organizations, including the Treasury, Health and Human Services and OPM.

Gordon adds: “What started in the federal government as an issue for office-based people working at home has morphed into a mobility issue for a much larger group, like field engineers, auditors, inspectors and IRS agents on the road.”

In fact, notes telecommuting consultant Joanne Pratt, so many workers are now so mobile, the definition of telework may be in flux. “People carry a lot of information with them wherever they go on devices like laptops. By law, some information is not allowed to leave an agency’s workplace, so government workers have to be sure they know the law.”

Proposing Telework

So how should you go about trying to secure a telecommuting arrangement within the federal government?

According to the government’s Interagency Telework Site – what Gordon calls “a one-stop shopping service for telework in government” – government workers worried about their superior’s reaction to a telework request should research their options thoroughly and then devise a comprehensive proposal that outlines the advantages to the organization. That proposal should also include a proposed schedule and list of tasks to be accomplished at home.

Pratt advises workers to write up a telecommuting plan just as they would any other business plan. “Keep it simple,” she says. “The focus should be on how you can have a positive impact on the workplace. Present the plan from the point of view of your supervisor – how it will help, not hinder, workflow, while meeting government goals.”

Of course, telecommuting is not for everyone. Some workers like the collegiality of the office; others know they do not work well independently, need close supervision or have a home that’s not conducive to work. But for more and more government workers, telecommuting is a great way to eliminate actual commuting.


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  • Business_max50

    juiceplus

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    How do we get more information? I am a single momma off 2 and would love this!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    shineycool

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    i,ve read the article,and iam more impressed on this please give me more information on it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    beaulieu45

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I've read the article, it sounds very good and I would like to receive more information about working at home.
    Thank you
    beaulieu45@yahoo.com

    This makes sense. But what is the policy about changes that are necessary because we were assigned to calls that we did not commit to, and actually indicated as black-out dates?

    George

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rmgcoyle

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I've read your article and it sounds like a good opportunity, and I would love to try it. My name is Ronald Glass (rmgcoyle1950@peoplepc.com, and would like more information on this.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    huntset2

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I would like to receive more information related to working at home.

  • Epson001_max50

    latnsgr

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Please send more information about working from home.
    latnsgr@tampabay.rr.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    SONYA

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    HI, I WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ON WORKING FROM HOME.I HAVE A CHILD THAT NEEDS ME HERE AT HOME. THANK YOU SONYASAWYERS@ATT.NET

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    tauruslady511

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    It stands to reason that more government positions would jump on the bandwagon and embrace telecommuting; however, management is still in its old mindset that employees need to be in the office from 9-5 and life just isn't like that for the majority of us. Government MUST embrace some work-life options that work for their employees. As a mother of two, I would love the option to work from home sometimes, particularly when my kids are sick and/or have doctor appointments, amongst other times. Since a major portion of government work entails pushing paper, again, it stands to reason that government should/would embrace telecommuting. Lack of flexible schedules and other work-life programs is another reason why the Federal government cannot attract a better pool of applicants.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    conniehansen

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Sirs: Working from home for the gov't would suit me very well. I work for myself now. I know how to adapt quickly to change , good work ethic, strong customer service, reliable , dependable and with great communication skills. Please send infor to countryconnie@sbcglobal.net or 817-346-4623 Thank you

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lita1967

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I am a stay at home mom with a disabled child. I left a Supervisors job of eight years Because of my child. I have all this office experience that I"m not able to help anyone.I would like to work for anyone in need of my experience. Phone skills, Customer service, Inventory, Billing, Invoicing, Appt, Purchase order, Sales orders, Etc
    Please be advise me at mnazario1967@yahoo.com 413-363-1406

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    drhoffa

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Working from home would be very advantageous for me. I work very well without supervision,
    please send me information................................. hoff300@fuse.net

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lindamoore

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I would like information about telecommuting for the Federal Governmant. Please let me know how I can make this happen..................wendy42@charter.net

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    hopefull

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I do my best work independently. No one looking over my shoulder. I will get my work done when it needs to be and in the professional manner it needs to be. I live alone, therefore no distractions. I will be worth every cent you will save, (because you well). mcarrillo2@cox.net

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    roxs2007

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I would love to have a flexible work schedule. Working from home would be great especially with the rising gas prices. Please send me information via email how to get started on this. Thanks! roxanne.rine@yahoo.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rani

    about 6 years ago

    4 comments

    I am very much longing for a flexible work schedule and i would would love to work for the gov't from home. Please advise me at raneekumar@yahoo.com

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