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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

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.

Fri, Aug 7, 2020 Corpus Christi, Tx

Telework is definitely possible in many positions, however, not all employees obviously have the integrity and work ethic to perform their daily duties in a timely manner. Therefore, the work load shifts to other employees. Needs to be more oversight from management to assure that some are not collecting a paycheck to do nothing at home. Just as a previous comment made, I actually am doing more while at home and many times beyond the normal core hours while others think they are on a paid vacation and have more excuses than Carter has liver pills!!

Thu, Aug 6, 2020

We have employees sitting home doing nothing, moving kids, mowing lawns in their side business, all the while on 'telework'. Their supervisors are fine with this, but those of us working even longer hours at home are pretty disappointed in the lack of character of coworkers. Get us all back in the office, so at least people have to show up.

Thu, Jul 30, 2020 Walter Puerto Rico

Remember, saving office space is really just another name for cost shifting (to the employee).

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