Some members of Congress think more federal workers ought to spend more time working from home or from telework centers – anything but traipsing into their central D.C. offices day in, day out. So they’ve introduced new legislation to try and nudge along teleworking.
Q: Can’t federal workers telework already?
A: Yes, but it varies a lot from agency to agency. Plus, there is something of cultural bias against teleworking too much. Some managers still are not convinced people are really working if they can’t see all of the noses in the office. And some workers worry that out of sight means out of mind.
Q: What is Congress doing to encourage more teleworking?
A: Democrats John Sarbanes of Maryland and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, along with Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia, want the Office of Personnel Management to issue uniform policy for all of government as a way of encouraging teleworking. So they have introduced the 2009 Telework Improvement Act. It would require not only new OPM policy, but also for federal agencies to let workers perform their duties outside of the office at least 20 percent of the time, or about a day a week.
Q: Why are they so gung ho on this?
A: The congressmen, like many proponent of telework, believe teleworking reduces automobile and gasoline use, so there is a green aspect to it. And it improves quality of life for federal works, while making the federal government more competitive as a prospective employer.
A companion bill is expected in the Senate, backed by Democrat Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Republican George Voinovich of Ohio.