If all goes as planned (a CYA mantra often heard in political Washington) thousands of currently office-bound feds should be teleworking this time next year. Maybe even this year.
The Senate and House have each approved bills that would flip current government thinking and rules about who gets to telework. A joint Senate-House conference committee will iron out minor differences in the bill. That should happen when Congress returns from its most recent elongated time-out, or in a post-election lame duck session. The latter is one feds (for that matter all taxpayers) need to watch with great interest.
Although some members of Congress have been pushing teleworking for years, the vast majority of feds have never done it or even been offered the chance. The new proposal (H.R. 1722 is the House version while the Senate bill is S. 707) would flip teleworking policy.
Simply put, under current rules federal managers are supposed to identify employees who COULD telework. Who could do their jobs from home or a telework center. In most offices that means that many employees are never considered for teleworking and the vast majority never get to do it.
Agencies have been strongly “encouraged” to do it by important members of Congress. Some gave minimal compliance by reporting to Congress that they had X number of people teleworking without noting that many of the “teleworkers” only did it one day per year.
Under the new proposal, assuming it becomes law, the agency would designate a key person to oversee the program, and would require managers to determine who should NOT telework and why. That should open the doors for the chance to work at least one day per week, or two days per pay period, from home.
The drive to telework has been slowly picking up steam since the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. It shocked officials into revising or developing continuation of operations (COOP) guidelines. If you are not familiar with the Washington area, check out a map. Although the Pentagon is on the Virginia side of the Potomac you can see DC from its location (which I, in turn, can see from my DC office). That day, and for months afterward, Northern Virginia’s horrendous traffic (already the second worst in the nation) got worse.
Washington’s February snowstorm, where we got 31 inches of snow overnight, socked in even rugged types who grew up in Montana, Minnesota or Maine. Most of the area’s 300,000 plus white collar federal workers got up to a week off with pay. This prompted a new call for a more robust teleworking program to save money and allow agency operations to continue no matter what – as long as there is electricity, of course.
For now it is still up to Congress. After they approve the law, assuming they do, it will then be up to your boss.
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