Fed managers leery of telework appeal process

By Max Cacas

The Office of Personnel Management has issued new guidance to all federal agencies designed to boost the number of feds eligible to telework. Included in that guidance is an idea that is raising the caution flag with some federal managers.

OPM Director John Berry announced his new telework push just under one month ago, in a briefing on Capitol Hill. At the time, he said many of the provisions of his new telework policy were gathered from several of the telework enhancement bills now pending in the House and Senate. And one, he says, focuses on one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a significant increase in federal teleworking.


Berry is encouraging agency heads to set up telework appeals procedures within their agencies to give workers one last chance to make their case when a supervisor says “no” to teleworking.

“Telework doesn’t work for everybody,” he said at the time, “but sometimes, you just get a manager who’s a stick in the mud. And when they are a stick in the mud, sometimes you just have to provide a way around that.”

So we decided to talk to representatives from the top two organizations representing Federal managers and get their perspectives on the matter.

Carol Bonasaro is president of the Senior Executives Association. She believes that Director Berry is on the right track in wanting to set up more uniform telework policies across the government based on what works. But in a telephone interview, she says when it comes to setting up a telework appeals process, it’s also important to remember that federal managers today are under a lot of pressure to perform.

“They may have some hesitation about telework,” she explains, “and they’re worried about can they get all the work done. Furthermore, there may be some employees that they’re not comfortable about giving that much lattitude to.”

Darryl Perkinson is president of the Federal Managers Association, and while he welcomes the opportunity to discuss telework in the broader context of Berry’s desire to improve labor-management relations, he is skeptical for now about implementing a telework appeals procedure in agencies.

“Rather than go to an appeals process,” he said, referring to Director Berry’s comments on teleworking to Federal News Radio’s Mike Causey, Perkinson feels instead that such a process would impose, “indirect pressure on federal managers. When you get indirect pressure, and you’re being driven to do something, you don’t necessarily look at the process as clearly as if you were trying to make a business-case analysis of why it would work, or it wouldn’t work.”

Bonasaro also feels that despite the fact that agencies like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the General Services Administration, and NASA, have resolved many hardware and security issues linked to teleworking, security concerns remain a big stumbling block to be dealt with to satisfy many of SEA’s members.

And, the FMA’s Perkinson acknowledges the need to give new thought to expanding teleworking as part of “continuity of operations” planning for the Federal Government, given the fact that the swine flu is still expected to sicken many more people, possibly including federal workers, later this year.

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