Turco on Telework: Not Fuzzy Slippers and Laundry

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Federal agencies were to have informed employees if they are eligible to telework by the close of business yesterday as the latest deadline in the government’s telework initiative fueled by the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.

This morning Kathleen Turco, GSA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said one of the biggest challenges going forward for telework isn’t getting employees on board, but for managers to find a comfort zone in not having workers in their line of sight each day.

“The key is to get beyond the thought that telework means you are home in fuzzy slippers doing the laundry,” Turco said at the Potomac Forum Executive Breakfast for Government: Telework in the Government, “but doing serious work in a place that is easier for the employee.”

For example, Turco said she was able to mix a vacation and work last week, talking with appropriations staff via telework while at the beach. She also pointed to Administrator Martha Johnson who teleworked from a hospital waiting room while her husband was in surgery.

Turco said the key for managers to get the most out of telework is having a solid grasp of employee duties and a way to measure their performance so both the employee and the manager know what is expected during telework.

“The reality is that an employee with a performance problems will have them whether they are teleworking or in an office,” Turco said. “Those problems need to be addressed no matter where an employee is and isn’t so much a teleworking issue as a management one.”

And one another note from Turco: The government is working on telework requirements for government contractors who work on-site with government employees. The issue is if the work can be done effectively via telework or if contractors need to be side-by-side with government employees.

The next deadline in regards to telework for agencies is July 28 when they must update technology purchasing policies. OMB issued guidance in April for agencies to develop purchasing technology equipment and services policies.

The Office of Personnel Management marked the deadline yesterday that coincided with the six-month mark in the initiative with a list of how OPM has provided support to agencies.

  • Held a Telework Management Forum, marking the first meeting of the new governmentwide TMOs. The Forum was an opportunity for the telework community to interact with a panel of experienced leaders from agencies with successful telework programs.
  • Experts in OPM’s Office of Work/Life/Wellness are holding regular informal evaluations with individual agencies to answer questions and provide support, as well as issuing monthly guidance and updates governmentwide.
  • Completely revamped the Guide to Telework in the Federal Government to help agencies comply with the Act. This helps fulfill OPM’s implementation responsibility required by the Actto provide policy support to Federal agencies on telework.
  • Issued the annual Status of Telework report to Congress, which analyzed multiple data streams to provide important baseline information about telework in the federal government. It showed that both employee interest in telework and the use of telework are increasing.

“Together with federal agencies, we have made great progress on telework implementation in the past six months. Agencies should be commended for their hard work, which will lead to better service to the taxpayers at lower cost,” said OPM Director John Berry. “We are learning how to best use telework for our many different types of missions and work environments and spreading those lessons from agency to agency.”

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Agencies, Departments, General Services Administration (GSA), John Berry, Kathleen Turco, mobile and wireless, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Tech, telework
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