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Time to reinvent federal telework, lawmaker says

With the dramatic changes affecting the federal workforce since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to take a look at the government’s current telework practices and re-evaluate their effectiveness, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said.

At a July 28 hearing of the Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Chairman Lankford asked for insights on telework from the private sector that could help Congress assess federal agency needs and ensure employees can work remotely safely, securely and efficiently.

In 2018, the Office of Personnel Management reported that only 22% of the federal workforce was eligible to telework, but with the pandemic prompting maximum telework almost overnight, agencies have been forced to deal with complex problems like cybersecurity, hiring, remote performance management and employee engagement, Lankford said. The coronavirus pandemic has been “a great disrupter, but it also shines a light on broken processes and shows an opportunity for real improvement,” he added.

Lankford called on executives from Deloitte Consulting, natural gas infrastructure firm The Williams Companies, online accounting company Reconciled and cybersecurity provider Acronis SCS – all of which have remote offices, field workers and mature telework policies and processes.

To chart a clear path forward for the federal workforce, Lankford said he was particularly interested in preparing employees so they can easily transition to remote work during a future disaster or pandemic, and in training managers to stay engaged with a remote workforce. Cybersecurity threats must be seriously considered, he said, as should the options to save tax dollars by reducing needed office space.

“I want to reinvent the wheel,” Lankford said, announcing a series of federal workforce-related telework hearings to learn what “those outside federal service understand very clearly -- that creating efficient cost savings workforce strategies are less a luxury and more of a necessity,”

Lankford’s Telework for US Innovation Act, which makes permanent the authority of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to conduct a telework travel expenses program was included in the Senate version of the national defense bill. Lankford and Subcommittee Ranking Member Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.) have also pressed for ongoing oversight of the federal workforce COVID-19 response, including teleworking for federal agencies.

Reader comments

Thu, Aug 20, 2020

I can't believe how many of you are crying about people teleworking. You sound like a bunch of whiny tattletales. Its the supervisors' responsibility to make sure work is getting done. If they are ok with whatever the situation may be, then you need to back off. If you have issues about work not being done, take it up with your union/supervisor/HR. We all work for different agencies so it is not the same for all of us. Some of us have a much greater risk of exposure simply due to our professions while others have very little risk.

Sun, Aug 16, 2020

Those employees on telework not really working will require supervisors to do their jobs! Track employee production. If they aren't working, disciplinary measures and firing mechanisms are on place. Use them!

Thu, Aug 13, 2020

It's always the few that ruin it for all. I actually get more work done at home than I did in the office. Often times going past my TOD without even realizing it. And no, I am not looking for compensation for that. You're in the zone and the time just goes by.

Wed, Aug 12, 2020 Washington DC

I am absolutely more productive and flexible with 100% telework. I'm in IT and my collaboration extends across the nation.....I went from 60% down to 20% with new Department regs..then pandemic hit. When I commuted into DC I was restricted by a train schedule with little possibility to flex any hours. The commuting also took 5 hours of my day.

Sun, Aug 9, 2020

Teleworking is a greater producer of work. I work same quality of work in the office as I do at home. In fact less distractions and interruptions from coworkers and management. I exceed office goals as I manage multiple projects all at once and by COB.

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