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FEVS: Fewer feds teleworking

Telework restrictions at the Departments of Agriculture and Education are having the desired effect, if data from the annual survey of federal employees is anything to go by.

Earlier this year, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a new policy restricting telework and requiring employees to work in an agency office at least four days a week.

At USDA, this restriction correlated to a decrease in the number of employees who said they telework. About one in five Agriculture employees reported teleworking at least one day a week, with just 4.3 percent teleworking three or more days a week, according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). In 2017, 8.4 percent of employees said they teleworked three or more days a week.

In May, the Department of Education announced a similar policy requiring employees to be in the office four days a week and prohibiting supervisors from approving requests for full-time telework. While that policy took effect Oct. 1, the percentage of Education employees who report teleworking three or more days a week declined from 21.3 percent in 2017 to 16.1 percent this year.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, telework was a major issue leading to the breakdown of union talks. According to FEVS responses, the percentage of HHS employees required to be physically present ticked up slightly to 14 percent from 12.8 percent.

Telework remains popular and overall is on the rise. In 2018, nearly three-fourths of employees reported teleworking at least one day a week, and 16.1 percent reported teleworking at least three days a week. In fact, governmentwide, the percentage of federal employees who responded to the survey said their teleworking has increased slightly since last year, though it’s still not a common practice.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State had the highest percentages of respondents who must be physically present.

The question of whether federal employees had been notified about their eligibility for telework was eliminated from the 2018 survey. The percentage of feds who reported not being notified at all about telework eligibility had declined steadily from 2015 to 2017.

Reader comments

Mon, Nov 26, 2018 Rockville

I agree with Anna Olds 100%. Teleworking for me has been very productive & my supervisors agree. Great balance to WFL, dissolves the 4hr drive a day- & replaces it w/work productivity- less traffic stress & potential transportation deaths.

Tue, Nov 6, 2018 mm

How telework can be productive is twofold (I was against it myself). One, the main reason to have _everybody_ do it at least once a payperiod or month, is for COOP--continuity of operations. If the VPN works and people have skype and mobile phone nrs, business continues. 2. Attracting new hires. There's a lot of work that doesn't _have_ to be done in an office full of coughing people and toxic outgasses from new carpeting. Plus millennials are said to prefer jobs where teleworking is an option. That's not fake news.

Sun, Nov 4, 2018

End Executive privileges, in my Federal Law Enforcement agency, only executives are awarded technology to work from home. If they cared all they need to do is audit who has an approved laptop.

Fri, Nov 2, 2018 Anna Olds Richmond, VA

Restricted telework that was MANDATED! Of course you get the results that you want. What you do not get is happy employees with good moral. I honestly worked more while teleworking at home. I drive 45-50 minutes a day depending on traffic. So I was definitely more productive when teleworking. Why not take the employees to task for not being productive and miss using their telework. But it seems all of us were put into the same box with the nonperformers. Makes absolutely no sense.

Thu, Nov 1, 2018

When you report Telework restrictions are having the desired effect, what other effect would be expected? It was MANDATED. There is a misconception that those who telework are not putting in their eight hours. I disagree. Employees I know that telework work MORE than eight hours a day because they are "on a roll" and often keep working until their task is done. No worries about missing mass transportation, etc. While I'm sure there are "some" who take advantage, I hope those employees are dealt with individually and a blanket "fix" is not instituted as is often the Government practice. Punish all for the few.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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