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Frequently Asked Questions Telework

  • The answer depends on the specific language and requirements of the agency telework policy.  The Telework Enhancement Act requires each Federal agency to incorporate telework into its Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP).  To meet the objectives of the Act, many agencies have adopted policies that expand the usage of telework to allow a greater number of their telework-ready employees to be productive during Government closures in response to severe weather, special events and other emergency situations.  Consequently, if the agency telework policy requires telework-ready employees to work during agency closures and that requirement is clearly communicated by the agency to the employee in the written telework agreement, then the employee would be required to work.  The bottom line is employees should follow the guidelines as outlined in their agency telework policy.  For more information, please refer to your agency telework policy, contact your agency telework coordinator, or visit your agency HR Department.

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  • Some supervisors express concern that when their employees are teleworking, they will not be able to monitor that employee's work effort.  But when approached correctly, 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.  The resulting agreement on job expectations often leads to increases in employee productivity and job satisfaction.
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  • The Telework Enhancement Act is silent on the question of whether an employee is automatically entitled to substitute his/her telework day if it falls on a Federal holiday.  Ultimately the agency’s telework policy and telework agreement should provide the framework for the discussion that needs to take place between the manager and the employee about expectations, including whether the agency’s telework policy allows for a substitution of the telework day if it falls on a holiday.  For more information, please refer to your agency telework policy, contact your agency telework coordinator, or visit your agency HR Department.
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  • As a general rule, no.  The Telework Enhancement Act contains specific language that clearly states teleworkers and non-teleworkers are to be treated the same for purposes of:
    • Periodic appraisals of job performance;
    • Training, rewarding, reassigning, promoting, reducing in grade, retaining and removing employees;
    • Work requirements; or
    • Other acts involving managerial discretion
    In sum this means the performance standards for teleworking employees must be the same as the performance standards for non-teleworking employees.  Like non-teleworking employees, teleworkers are held accountable for the results they produce.  Good performance techniques practiced by a manager will mean a smooth, easier transition to a telework environment.  Resources for performance management are available from OPM.
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  • In conjunction with the requirements of the agency telework policy, the manager normally decides when and how often a teleworker is away from the office. Most teleworkers are not away from the office more than one or two days a week. And again, communication does not stop when the employee is teleworking.  Instead, some of the face-to-face communication is replaced with the phone, email, videoconferencing and instant messaging.
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  • Agencies should allow pre-decisional involvement to the fullest extent practicable as provided in Executive Order 13522 and satisfy collective bargaining obligations by working with labor when developing their telework policies and agreements.
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  • Sometimes teleworking does not work.  If a teleworker's quality of work declines, treat it as you would any performance issue.  Review the telework agreement and give your employees a chance to improve.  Your telework agreement should include a clause stating that either the manager or the employee can cancel the telework agreement for operational or performance issues.
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  • There is no current prohibition in Federal law or regulation that says managers and supervisors cannot telework.  Managers and supervisors must be committed to using telework to the fullest extent possible within their organizations if Federal telework programs are to succeed.  Experience is the only way to enable managers and employees to work through any technology, equipment, communications, workflow, and associated issues that may inhibit the transparency of telework.  Also, individuals expected or anticipated to telework during an emergency situation, including managers and supervisors, should be encouraged to telework with some frequency under non-emergency situations.  Managers and supervisors should make it a point to regularly participate in telework in order to lead by example and be comfortable with the dynamics of managing in a telework environment.
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  • Subject to the agency’s telework policy and operational needs of the organization, there is no restriction on how much flexibility may be allowed to teleworkers in this regard.  Since telework eliminates commute time, it may make sense for the teleworker to begin their work day earlier than they would otherwise.  However, the amount of flexibility will be determined by agency policy, collective bargaining agreements, and the business needs of the organization. 
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  • This is a common myth, but implemented properly, a telework program should not cause any extra work for non-teleworkers.  Teleworking and non-teleworking employees must understand expectations regarding telework arrangements including coverage, communications and responsibilities.  Also, managers should avoid distributing work based on “availability” 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.  For more guidance on performance management, please see OPM's Performance Management page.
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