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Frequently Asked Questions Telework

  • 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. 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.  Managers should immediately investigate any reports of accidents or injuries on the job.
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  • Yes, OPM offers a Governmentwide telework training program for managers on our website.  Additionally, individual agencies have the option of offering their own on-line or classroom based telework training tailored to their organizations.  In addition to the training for managers offered on our website, there is also specialized training available through OPM's Eastern and Western Management Development Centers. Details on the Development Centers and course schedules can be found at the Center for Leadership Development's website.
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  • According to the law, among other responsibilities, the TMO "shall be devoted to policy development and implementation related to agency telework programs" and is to "serve as an advisor for agency leadership, including the Chief Human Capital Officer" and is to be "a resource for managers and employees." Since the intent of the Act is to encourage the maximum use of telework by Federal employees, given the duties described in the law, it would be appropriate for the TMO to advise agency management and leadership about the feasibility of denying telework participation to employees in an office. Of course, situations will vary and the TMO will need to take into account all of the facts that went into such a decision as well as potential opportunities for a synergistic approach to telework given the circumstances.
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  • The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Act) requires that each Executive agency designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO). Before the law was passed, most agencies fulfilled the day-to-day operational aspects of telework through a telework coordinator (with telework coordinators at the subagency level). The telework coordinator served as the key contact for policy and program questions. Many coordinators, however, had telework as a collateral responsibility without much authority or contact with senior leaders. The Act requires the TMO to assume these duties as the main agency official on telework matters. The TMO is a senior official of the agency, established within the office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), or its equivalent, and who has direct access to the head of the agency. Note that he or she does not need to be the CHCO. The important thing is that the position be given direct access to the head of the agency. We believe it is the intent of this legislation that the TMO be a strategic thinker and planner who will help the agency incorporate telework in a way that makes good business sense. The TMO is responsible for policy development and implementation related to telework programs; serves as an advisor to agency leadership; and is the primary point of contact with OPM on telework matters. In addition to making telework an integral way of doing business in the agency, the TMO will be responsible for helping with the development of goals and metrics in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. In designating a TMO, agencies should look for the same leadership competencies and high standards they would consider in selecting for any leadership position.
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  • 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.
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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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  • There should be no significant difference between managing the performance of a teleworker and managing the employee who works in the office.  Each employee should be appraised against his or her performance standard(s), despite location.
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  • It depends on the provisions the agency chooses to use in taking the performance-based action. If the agency uses the appraisal provisions, an opportunity period must be provided. If the agency uses the adverse action provisions, there is no specific requirement for an opportunity period.
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  • The TMO designation is new with the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The TMO is a single person at each agency who is ultimately accountable for that agency's telework program. This position is meant to be a high-level advisor to the agency leadership, a resource on telework issues for managers and employees, and is responsible for policy development and implementation related to the agency's telework program. The way agencies implemented telework before the law was passed was that each agency had a "Telework Coordinator" at the Department/Agency level (e.g., Department of Homeland Security), and also individual "telework coordinators" at the subagency/subcomponent level (e.g., Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, etc.). Whenever OPM would require agency-wide information on telework such as for the annual aggregate data collected on telework participation, it would work with the single point of contact at the Department/Agency-level. The agency-wide coordinator would then work with his/her subcomponent "coordinators" to gather the information for their respective areas and then would tally everything to submit the data in a single report to OPM on behalf of the entire agency. The TMO position more closely resembles what was formerly the Department-level "Telework Coordinator." This means the role within an agency of pulling together information on telework from various internal sources and then reporting to OPM now falls on the TMO. However, the responsibilities of the TMO extend beyond operational day-to-day aspects of telework and delve more into policy, advising, and an overarching management of the entire telework program for his/her agency. Agencies have discretion to determine whether or not, or how, they will continue to utilize "telework coordinators" to implement the day-to-day aspects of the agency telework program subject to the oversight of the TMO. The bottom line, however, is that each agency will have only one individual, the TMO, who is the single accountable person according to the law for the agency's telework program. In other words, when OPM contacts any given agency in the future to either request or disseminate information on Federal telework, we will contact the TMO. It will then be up to the TMO to coordinate internally with other staff members assisting with operational telework issues in that agency. Human Resources staff or agency employees that have questions or issues about telework should be encouraged to direct their concerns to the agency's TMO or the TMO’s designee.
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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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