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These basic steps will help minimize any potential administrative burden, maximize the benefit of telework for you and your workgroup, and set the stage for your employees to be successful, whether or not they are teleworking.
All agencies must designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO), who is the agency's primary contact for policy and program questions. TMOs will often work with a telework coordinator on the day-to-day operational aspects of telework. Managers should maintain frequent contact with their TMO or telework coordinator to ensure the agency's policy and procedures are properly applied and to ensure they are aware of the full range of support and resources available to them.
As detailed in 6502 of Public Law 111-292 (Telework Enhancement Act of 2010), all agencies must have a telework policy. Managers should familiarize themselves and their employees with their agency's policy, including applicable collective bargaining agreements, to ensure they are in compliance with their requirements.
In addition, all agencies should have policies on information systems and technology security, and managers must ensure their equipment choices and telework agreements comply with this policy. Information security includes protection of sensitive "hard-copy" files and documents.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (PL 111-292) requires that employees successfully complete telework training before they can telework. Managers and supervisors are encouraged to complete telework training. The Office of Personnel Management offers online teleworker training. In addition, many agencies offer their own training as part of the telework policy and procedures. Information about any agency-based training is available from the telework coordinator, who can also consult with managers.
Information technology security training, administered at the agency level, is mandatory, and managers should ensure that teleworkers complete this training and understand their responsibilities in safeguarding work-related information.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires each Executive agency to determine the eligibility of all its employees for telework. Generally, agencies have discretion to determine telework eligibility criteria for their employees, subject to the requirements in the Act. These criteria should be detailed in agency policy. Individual managers should assess who in their workgroup is and is not eligible to participate in telework based on these eligibility guidelines and any applicable collective bargaining agreements.
Telework is often implemented piecemeal, rather than strategically, as individuals request arrangements. This reactive approach carries the risk of raising fairness issues. To the extent possible, telework should be implemented strategically, taking into account the needs and work of the group. Agencies have made this easier by making broader determinations on employee eligibility and notifying employees. However, managers and supervisors may be making decisions with regard to situational telework and groups of newly-hired employees.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 says that each teleworker and his or her manager must enter into a written agreement for every type of telework, whether the employee teleworks regularly or not. The parameters of this agreement are most often laid out by the agency policy and/or collective bargaining agreement, but should include certain key elements:
Most importantly, the agreement should be signed and dated by the manager. Managers and Telework Managing Officers are encouraged to keep copies of all telework agreements on file.
Telework agreements are living documents and should be revisited by the manager and teleworker and re-signed regularly, preferably at least once a year. At a minimum, new telework agreements should be executed when a new employee/manager relationship is established.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires all Executive agencies to incorporate telework into their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans. OPM strongly recommends any individuals asked to telework in the case of a COOP event or a pandemic health crisis have a telework agreement in place that provides for such an occurrence. Such individuals also should practice teleworking on a regular basis as much as possible.
The telework agreement provides a framework for the discussion that needs to take place between the manager and the employee about expectations. For both routine and situational telework, this discussion is important to ensure the manager and the employee understand each other's expectations around basic issues such as the following:
Telework requests may be denied and telework agreements may be terminated. Telework is not an employee right, even if the employee is
Denial and termination decisions must be based on operational needs or performance in accordance with the law, not personal reasons. A manager may deny a telework agreement if the duties of the position are not amenable to telework. If the employee's denial or termination was as a result of a performance issue, the denial or termination should include information about when the employee might reapply, and also if applicable, what actions the employee should take to improve his or her chance of approval. Denials should be provided in a timely manner. Managers should also review the agency's collective bargaining agreement(s) and telework policy to ensure they meet any applicable requirements.
Managers should provide employees (and keep copies of) signed written denials or terminations of telework agreements. These should include information about why the arrangement was denied or terminated. The TMO should also be alerted regarding denials or terminations and copies provided to him/her as well.
With respect to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, appeals will be governed by the negotiated grievance procedure (unless this subject is specifically excluded from that procedure by the collective bargaining agreement, in which case the agency grievance procedure would govern). For non-bargaining unit employees, the agency grievance procedure in force would cover appeals from a denial of a request to telework.
It is important to note that performance standards for teleworking employees must be the same as performance standards for non-teleworking employees. Management expectations for performance should be clearly addressed in the employee's performance plan, and the performance plan should be reviewed to ensure the standards do not create inequities or inconsistencies between teleworking and non-teleworking employees. Like non-teleworking employees, teleworkers are held accountable for the results they produce. Good performance management techniques practiced by the manager will mean a smoother, easier transition to a telework environment. Resources for performance management are available from OPM at www.opm.gov/perform.
In Federal Management Regulation (FMR) Bulletin 2006-B3, Guidelines for Alternative Workplace Arrangements , GSA provides guidelines for the equipment and support that an agency may provide teleworkers. Generally, decisions are made by the agency or by individual managers regarding the ways in which teleworkers should be equipped. Managers should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and also with their agency's policy on equipment. Within those constraints, the challenge for managers is finding the right balance of budget, security, and effectiveness. Factors to consider include technology needs based on the work of the employee, agency security requirements, and budget constraints.
Managers should avoid distributing work based on "availability" as measured by physical presence, and avoid the pitfall of assuming that someone who is present and looks busy is actually accomplishing more work than someone who is not on-site. Good performance management practices are essential for telework to work effectively and equitably.
Although individual employees are responsible for complying with information security requirements, managers should work with teleworkers to ensure they fully understand the relevant policies and procedures.
Managers should review a safety checklist with teleworkers to ensure compliance and should immediately investigate any reports of accidents or injuries on the job. Government employees causing or suffering work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternative worksite are covered by the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, or the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (workers' compensation), as appropriate.
The success of an organization's telework program depends on regular, routine use. Experience is the only way to enable managers, employees, IT support, and other stakeholders to work through any technology, equipment, communications, workflow, and associated issues that may inhibit the transparency of telework. Individuals expected or anticipated to telework in an emergency situation, including managers and supervisors, should, be encouraged to telework with some frequency under non-emergency circumstances. Managers and supervisors should make it a point to regularly participate in telework in order to lead by example and be comfortable in dealing with the dynamics of managing in a telework environment.