Telework for Gov't Employees Increasing Steadily But Slowly
Alex M. Parker | Government Executive
September 21, 2009
Participation in telework rose in 2008, but the percentage of eligible federal employees who took advantage of the alternative work arrangement on a regular basis remained small, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management.
Last year, 102,900 federal employees worked off-site at least once a month, the report stated. That’s an increase of 8,257 employees, or 9 percent, from 2007, when 94,643 employees teleworked regularly. But it is only 8.6 percent of eligible workers and 5.2 percent of all federal employees.
“The report indicates steady albeit very slow progress in telework,” OPM Director John Berry wrote in an accompanying message. “We have significant work ahead to develop a strong telework culture.”
The majority of teleworkers in 2008 spent at least one day a week away from the office. Thirteen percent worked off-site three times a week or more, 51 percent did so one or two days weekly, and 36 percent telecommuted less than once a week but more than once a month.
Forty-eight of 78 agencies that responded to the survey reported growth in telework from 2007. The report singled out the Health and Human Services, Interior, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments as agencies that had made substantial strides, and pointed to the Commerce, Defense, Justice and State departments as agencies with large drops in participation.
Among smaller agencies, the Census Bureau multiplied its ranks of teleworkers from 12 to 276 employees. In contrast, the Food and Drug Administration saw its number of teleworkers fall from 891 to 364.
Officials cited office coverage — or ensuring there were enough people on-site to keep things running — as the top barrier to telework. Other issues included management resistance, organizational culture, and concerns about cybersecurity and funding.