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Telework Managers

Common Myths

Myth: I will not know my employees are working at home.

Truth: Supervisors discover they are better able to monitor the work by shifting the focus from how much work the employee looks like he/she is accomplishing to how much he/ she actually is accomplishing.  By focusing on the work product instead of the work activity, many supervisors find they are better able to communicate clear expectations to their employees.  When supervisors and teleworkers agree on job expectations, it often increases employee productivity and job satisfaction.

 

Myth: Teleworkers must have a computer to work from home.

Truth: Telework is not synonymous with tele-computing.   It is important to understand a computer is not always required to telework.  There are a number of tasks that do not require any specific equipment or technology at all.  Managers should consider that every job is made up of a collection of tasks and many employees are able to collect tasks to do when working from home.

Also remember most jobs, if not all, include some duties that are considered “portable” meaning they generally can be performed from any location.   Examples of portable work include reading reports, analyzing documents and studies, preparing written letters, memorandums, reports and other correspondence, setting up conference calls.

 

Myth: Teleworkers must work at home five days a week.

Truth: Full-time telework in the Federal Government is still very rare and is considered the exception more than the rule.  In conjunction with the agency telework policy, the manager normally decides when and how often a teleworker is away from the office.  The typical  Federal teleworker is not  away from the office more than one or two days a week, and the vast majority of employees telework on only a situational or ad hoc basis.

 

Myth: Teleworkers are not available when you need them.

Truth: Managers and teleworkers should create an individual telework agreement that clearly outlines the specific terms of the work arrangement and the expectations of both the manager and employee as it relates  to maintaining the integrity of the work group, ensuring proper coverage and communication with the office, and what will be done to meet contingencies.  If the teleworker is needed, he/she may be asked to come into the office on a scheduled telework day.

If the employee is required to come into the office, the telework agreement should outline the expectation regarding the amount of notice, if any, that should be given for reporting to the official worksite, and how such notice will be provided.  For further information, please consult your agency telework policy or telework coordinator.
 

Myth: Telework is not for everyone, so it is not fair.

Truth: There may be instances when a manager has made a good faith effort to accommodate telework for certain employees and simply cannot due to the nature of the work.  In other cases, an employee may elect to not participate in telework.

Rather than focusing all the attention on telework, look at fairness as offering several flexible work options like alternative work schedules or compressed work weeks, so most everyone will have the opportunity to get the flexibility they need when they need it.
 

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Myth: Everyone will want to telework.

Truth: According to the results of the FEVS, only about a quarter of respondents telework to some degree (24 percent).  The remaining 76 percent did not telework because they were either not allowed to by their agencies even though they believed they were in jobs conducive for telework (22 percent), they were deemed ineligible to telework by their agencies (41 percent) or they chose not to telework (13 percent). 
 

Myth: Equipment will be expensive.

Truth: The agency telework policy and the telework agreement should determine and specify what equipment and/or expenses will be covered by the agency, employee, or shared.  As reflected in annual telework data collected from agencies, the responsibility for providing work-related equipment to teleworkers is roughly split between agencies providing the equipment (30 percent), teleworkers providing their own equipment (29 percent), and agencies sharing the costs with employees (38 percent).  Many employees find the opportunity to telework is so worthwhile they choose to use their personal equipment when equipment is not available from their agencies.

 

Myth: Teleworkers cause more work for supervisors.

Truth: Managing employees who telework requires communication about the work product and expectations.  One of the extra benefits of flexible work options is that it forces management by task and objective.  Many managers have found an increase in quality communication which reduces the manager's overall workload overtime. 

Myth: Teleworkers cause more work for coworkers.

Truth:  Implemented properly, a telework program should not cause any extra work for non-teleworking employees.  All must understand expectations regarding telework arrangements including coverage, communications and responsibilities.  Managers should avoid distributing work based on “availability” as measured by physical presence to avoid unfairly burdening coworkers who do not telework.  Keep in mind good performance management practices are essential for telework to be effective and equitable.
 

Myth: Our employees deal with confidential information, so they cannot telework.

Truth: Information security is a legitimate concern, but telework should not create a significantly greater concern than is currently the case in the office.  Employees are required to take responsibility for the security of the data and other information they handle while teleworking.  Additionally, employees are required to comply with their agency’s information security policies, participate in information security training,  follow security protocols for remote connectivity, and maintain security of any relevant materials, including files, correspondence, and equipment.   Depending on the sensitivity of the information being handled, the home office may need to include security measures, such as locked file cabinets, similar to what may be used at the official worksite.
 

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Myth: Teleworkers are out of sight, out of mind.

Truth: With modern technology, teleworkers should share seamless communication with their office and customers, at all times.
 

Myth: Teleworking is really just a substitute for dependent care.

 Truth: Telework is primarily a flexible work arrangement established to facilitate the accomplishment of work.  As such, teleworkers have work tasks to complete and must arrange for dependent care just as they would if they were working in the office.
 

 Myth: Teleworkers will lose out on promotions, career advancement opportunities and good assignments.

Truth: There is no documented evidence to show that teleworkers are promoted less often than non-teleworkers.
 

Myth: Managers should not telework.

Truth: Managers and supervisors must be committed to using telework to the fullest extent possible if Federal telework programs are to succeed.  Research in the work/life field bears out that supervisors, managers and senior executives who model the use of workplace flexibilities, such as telework, serve as key drivers in effecting positive cultural change in that organization.  This is especially so if the organization’s climate and culture have traditionally reflected a skeptical, or even hostile view of telework.

The research also suggests there is a tendency for employees to model the behavior of supervisors.  Non-participating supervisors may send a non-verbal message of disapproval of telework.  It might also send the non-verbal message that getting ahead in the Federal workforce (e.g. being promoted) depends on the employee’s physical presence at the main worksite.  Managers and supervisors that telework will help to dispel this false notion and lead the way towards a telework-friendly culture in the agency.  It will also demonstrate that with the proper management techniques, proximity should not be required for proper management.
 

Myth: According to the requirements of the Telework Enhancement Act, Federal agencies are required to allow employees who wish to telework the opportunity to do so.

Truth: The Telework Enhancement Act requires each Executive agency to establish and implement a policy under which employees are authorized to telework.  However, it does not provide Federal employees a legal entitlement or right to telework.
 

Myth: Only employees who engage in telework on routine or regular basis are required to have a written telework agreement.

Truth: The Telework Enhancement Act requires a written telework agreement for any employee engaged in telework as a condition for participation.

 

Myth: Federal teleworkers are typically women with school-aged children.

Truth: Results of the Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) show that the typical Federal teleworker is a slightly older, non-supervisor with fairly stable employment tenure in the same agency.  It also reveals that men actually represent a slightly higher percentage of teleworkers (51 percent) versus women (49 percent).  Despite stereotypes that assume teleworkers are unique in some way (e.g. younger, women, etc.), overall, teleworkers are representative of typical Federal Government employees.  The data also suggests that  men are just as likely as women to seek workplace flexibility options to help them manage their work and personal/family responsibilities.


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