As is often the case with the acceptance of new cultural norms, telework continues to progress steadily while, at the same time, experiencing the occasional setback, a course evidenced by the Office of Personnel Managementís (OPM) 2008 Report on the Status of Telework in the Federal Government, a report for calendar year 2007.
On a positive note, the survey found that the majority of Federal agency telework programs expanded or held steady between 2006 and 2007, with 94,643 teleworkers, or 7.62 percent of all eligible employees, working from home or remote telework centers at least once a month.
Moreover, participating agencies reported that more than 60 percent of teleworkers worked from home or remote telework centers frequently (one day per week or more), which marks an increase of eight percent over 2006.
Many agencies enjoyed tremendous progress:
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation realized a gain of 597 percent, as its number of teleworkers skyrocketed from 236 to 1,644, a number representing 36 percent of its eligible workforce
- The Department of Interior boosted its number of teleworkers from 1,905 in 2006 to 6,624, a one-year jump of 248 percent
- The Department of Health and Human Services reported 11,272 teleworkers in 2007, an increase of 46 percent over 2006, attributing its success to, among other things, the recent creation of readily accessible training that provides users with a clear understanding of telework basics for managers, supervisors, and would-be teleworkers
Equally encouraging was the finding that the number of agencies that have integrated telework into their Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning jumped to 60 percent, well beyond the 42 percent that had done so in 2006. Those agencies with a telework-enabled COOP program also increased the number of employees equipped and ready to telework in an emergency situation by 63 percent (between 2006 and 2007).
By contrast, though, the report found that the number of actual teleworkers declined by nearly 15 percent, dropping from 110,592 teleworkers in 2006 to 94,643 in 2007. Report authors noted that these decreases were the direct result of major policy and administrative changes at two agencies: the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Due to the United States war efforts, DoD officials have become increasingly aggressive in tightening resources and eliminating perceived potential for civilian-related security issues. As a result, for the time being, DoD has cut in half its numbers of teleworkers, which declined from 34,880 in 2006 to 17,921 in 2007. At NASA, after instituting new telework tracking systems, officials were able to provide what they believe to be more precise, but significantly lower, telework numbers in 2007. By adjusting its definition of telework to better align with that of OPM, NASA reported that only 825 eligible full-time and part-time employees were teleworking in 2007, compared to what officials now deem to be an inaccurate estimate of 10,118 teleworkers in 2006.
Excepting DoD and NASA, the report determined that Federal agencies realized a gain of 10,000 teleworkers between 2006 and 2007.
Other report findings included the following:
- More than 1.2 million Federal employees, or two-thirds of the workforce of agencies surveyed, are considered eligible to telework based on OPM-defined guidelines
- The top telework benefits to agencies were improved employee morale, improved ability to attract and retain top employees, and improved employee productivity and performance
- Agencies continue to view office coverage, followed by organizational culture, management resistance, and IT security, as the primary barriers to expanded telework implementation
- Only 37 percent of participating agencies in 2007 saw security as a hindrance to telework, compared to 42 percent in 2006 and 44 percent in 2005, and half of agencies reported that they had developed separate IT security policies and guidelines for teleworkers, an increase from the 37 percent of agencies that had done so in 2006
- More agencies are providing the necessary telework equipment (35 percent in 2007 versus 9 percent in 2006), however 41 percent in 2007 were requiring teleworkers to buy their own computing gear, a 5 percent increase over 2006