Recently introduced legislation sets a goal of increasing telework participation among federal agencies and their employees.
“Instead of instituting mindless, sweeping bans on telework participation, agencies should be expanding teleworking options. Telework is supposed to be a tool for promoting government efficiency, performance, and emergency preparedness,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), one of the bill’s sponsors.
The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act
The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 6551) was introduced by Connolly and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD). It sets several goals, all of which are designed to foster greater use of telework among federal employees.
The definition fo telework would be clarified to include full-time telework.
Boosting telework participation
Agencies would be required to set annual goals for telework participation as part of their agency telework policy. The Congressmen said that goals be part of the agency telework plan would improve agency goal setting and reporting.
Current goal reporting is spotty at best. As an example, the Congressmen cited the 2017 Report on the Status of Telework in Federal Government which said that 83% of agencies reported goals for their total telework participation rate.
Tracking telework cost savings
The Office of Personnel Management would be required to establish uniform guidance for agencies on how to collect information on, set goals for, and report cost savings achieved through telework.
Agencies would be required to set goals for and report on cost savings achieved through telework.
Connolly and Sarbanes said that OPM is either doing in practice or tries to do on an ad hoc basis both of the above items and that the legislation codifies them pursuant to a GAO recommendation.
Boosting telework participation
OPM would be required to include in its annual report a plan to keep government-wide telework participation above a floor of 22%.
Stopping telework bans
Agencies would be prohibited from instituting agency-wide bans on any category of telework (1-2 days per pay period, 3 or more days per pay period, etc.). Agencies would also be required to notify OPM and Congress of any plans to reduce telework. An agency must justify the reduction and explain how it will pay for any lost cost savings.
Pushing back on agency telework restrictions
Part of the impetus for the legislation is to counter efforts by agencies to clamp down on teleworking.
The Congressmen cited as one example a new telework policy at the Department of Education. One of the provisions of that new policy is a requirement that employees who telework must be in the office at least four days per week. It also said that supervisors were now prohibited from granting requests for 100% telework.
Not all lawmakers agree that telework is a great thing as Connolly and Sarbanes do. A 2017 report issued by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) highlighted telework abuse at the Labor Department’s (DOL) Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. It noted that employees there were frequently abusing the telework policy by over-reporting their work hours, something the Senator’s report said likely contributed to a large backlog of workers’ compensation claims.