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Washington, D.C. -- An official with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management today gave Congress an update on how federal employees are embracing telework as an extension of their office routines.
Dan Green, Deputy Associate Director with OPM's Center for Employee and Family Support Policy, said 49 of 80 Executive Branch agencies in 2006 had more employees working from home or other off-site locations than in 2005.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, Green highlighted the hands-on efforts of officials at the Department of Labor, U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and OPM to increase telework participation among employees.
Between 2005 and 2006, the number of teleworkers at the ITC quadrupled. ITC officials credit the increase to good administration of the program and teleworkers reporting higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity. Teleworkers at the Labor Department jumped 43 percent in 2006, due, in part, to the inclusion of telework in new-employee orientation sessions and the value of offsite programs as experienced by employees during Continuity of Operations (COOP) exercises.
At OPM, more than one-fifth of eligible employees teleworked in 2006; the agency also saw a tripling in the number of those who teleworked at least three days per week. Green attributed this success to OPM Director Linda M. Springer's Career Patterns initiative, which is designed to have agencies improve their appeal among recent college graduates or mid-career professionals.
Green's testimony also included news that agencies governmentwide reported 8,656 fewer teleworkers in 2006 than the previous year. There were 110,592 teleworkers in 2006, according to agency documents.
One possible reason given for the decrease could be "inconsistencies" in agencies' tracking systems that gather data reported to OPM.
"We found the internal tracking systems used to gather data vary widely in their efficiency and effectiveness, leading to inconsistencies in the information reported to OPM year to year," said Green. He said agencies are developing internal systems to improve data collection, while noting OPM's 2007 telework survey will ask some large agencies to list teleworkers by sub-agency in an effort to better understand agencies' successes and challenges with the program.
Green said agency concerns over data security also could have dampened telework activity. He said OPM is working with the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Council on telework-related issues, as well as with several intelligence agencies to explore how telework centers can be adopted to a more secure environment.
OPM is continuing to stress among agencies the importance of integrating telework into COOP and pandemic influenza planning. Green said OPM issued a new Guide to Telework in the Federal Government in 2006 in response to President George W. Bush's Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, which described critical actions the federal government would take to detect and respond to a potential pandemic.
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