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Frequently Asked Questions Telework

  • Teleworkers should be aware of:
    • Coping with interruptions and distractions — Often friends, neighbors and family members do not realize that a teleworker is working. Although an occasional, brief interruption may be welcome, teleworkers must learn to keep interruptions to a minimum.
    • Working long hours — Teleworkers need to be careful they do not slip into "workaholism." Some personality types have the tendency to work longer hours than usual when they are teleworking because they can focus so well on their work. Teleworkers should give careful consideration to the balance or integration of their work and personal lives to avoid burnout.
    • Exercising self-control — If teleworkers find themselves procrastinating, they should evaluate their work habits and make necessary changes to ensure productivity.
    • Designating space — A designated work area is recommended for teleworking. A separate work space may mean fewer distractions or interruptions and a higher level of discipline and organization.
    • Gaining support — A family's or supervisor's attitude may sometimes be detrimental to a telework arrangement. Teleworkers must work to gain the support and understanding of those around them.
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  • The answer will depend largely on the requirements of your individual agency, the agency telework policy, and your manager.  The telework agreement should specify what equipment and/or expenses will be covered by the agency, employee, or shared.  Many employees find the opportunity to telework is so worthwhile they will choose to use their own personal equipment when equipment is not available from their office.  Many agencies also have computers that people can take home.
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  • No.  It is the employee's responsibility to maintain a clean, safe and productive home office environment.  Depending on the requirements of the agency telework policy, a manager may ask the employee to complete a safety checklist self-certifying the home office is free from hazards.  The checklist generally provides a description of the agreed upon alternative worksite or designated work area, a self-certifying assessment of its overall safety, and if signed, assumes compliance.
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  • The ideal teleworker is self-motivated, well organized, a problem-solver, and someone who can work independently with minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge, and strong time management skills. Teleworkers like working at home or away from the office for at least part of the week and do not mind working alone. Teleworking is not ideal or desirable for every employee.
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  • Yes.  The Telework Enhancement Act allows for termination of a telework agreement if an employee does not comply with the terms of the written agreement and/or if the performance of the employee falls below a certain standard (usually fully successful).  Telework denial or termination decisions should be based on the operational needs of the organization and/or performance in accordance with the requirements of the Act and the agency’s telework policy. When deciding to terminate a telework agreement, a manager should be able to document and demonstrate that:
    • The employee’s teleworking directly and negatively impacts the employee’s performance or the performance of the work group/organization
    • Continuation of telework will interfere with remediation of the standards such as the employee’s ability to attain or return to a fully successful performance level.
    Also, as a general rule, a manager’s termination of a telework agreement should follow some basic principles:
    • Be in writing
    • Provide an explanation 
    • Be timely
    • Follow agency policies and procedures for denial/termination of telework requests
    • Include any appeals/grievance procedures available to the employee
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  • Yes.  Denials should be based on the requirements of the Telework Enhancement Act, individual agency telework policies, applicable collective bargaining agreements, and the business and operational needs of the organization.  Remember, telework is not an employee right or entitlement.  Although the intent of the Act is to promote the use of telework, agencies have the flexibility to determine participation based on the specific needs of the organization.  Decisions to deny a request to telework should be based on sound business management principles and not for personal reasons. Also, as a general rule, a manager’s denial of a telework request should follow some basic principles:
    • Be in writing
    • Provide an explanation
    • Be timely
    • Follow agency policies and procedures for denial/termination of telework requests
    • Include any appeals/grievance procedures available to the employee
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  • The Governmentwide Telework Office is not qualified to provide tax advice on the question of whether a telework arrangement qualifies for a Federal tax deduction.  For more specific information about the tax implications of telework, please consult with a qualified tax preparer.
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  • No, telework is not a universal employee benefit or an employee right.  Federal law requires agencies to establish telework programs but does not give individual employees a legal right to telework.
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  • Yes, OPM offers a Governmentwide telework training program for employees on our website, www.telework.gov.  Additionally, individual agencies have the option of offering their own on-line or classroom based telework training tailored to their organizations.
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  • When a telework program is implemented properly and the teleworker selection process is clear and objective, any possible negative effects on the morale and productivity of non-teleworkers can be minimized.  It is important to clearly communicate to all employees that teleworkers are selected on the basis of their job functions and their work performance characteristics. It is also critical that an employee's telework arrangement does not increase other employees' workloads. When management does not handle the transition carefully, objectively and transparently, jealousy and resentment can arise from non-teleworkers who mistakenly believe that teleworkers are not really working.  In other instances, co-workers are not interested in teleworking, but respect those who do.  Managers need to ensure that all employees are treated equitably when it comes to expectations and performance, regardless of where they are working.  Employees who telework more than two or three days per week should be encouraged to visit the office in order to maintain personal relationships with colleagues and supervisors.  As with any organizational change or shift, communication is the key to its success!
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