An Easier Way to Tell If Telework is Working

OPM plans to try automated tracking system.

Experts have long said that one of the great challenges for agencies in implementing telework programs is ensuring they can measure success appropriately. Now, the Office of Personnel Management is planning to make that process easier for agencies by automating the way they collect and provide statistics on telework, Federal News Radio reports.

Justin Johnson, OPM’s deputy chief of staff, said in an interview with FNR that OPM is planning to pilot the automated system ahead of next June’s annual report on telework. The goal, Johnson said, is to deploy the system, which will rely on time and attendance data to provide a more accurate assessment of employees’ telework habits, governmentwide by summer 2014.

“Some agencies use the number of telework agreements to estimate telework participation; consequently, some reported participation numbers may be overestimates,” OPM wrote in its 2012 telework status report to Congress. “This is because some employees may have telework agreements in place for emergencies, but choose not to telework on a regular basis.”

In the meantime, there are other ways that agencies can more accurately measure telework success. During a May webinar sponsored by Telework Exchange, National Institutes of Health Telework Coordinator Shirley LaBella said that NIH has gone the extra mile by taking quarterly polls of employees to determine the number of teleworkers and how often they are teleworking. The agency also has replaced its manual system with one that incorporates teleworking into its time and attendance system, Labella said.

For other agencies looking to effectively track and measure their telework success, LaBella recommended beginning by looking at goals and parameters that will define success. “We looked at the drivers and benefits that were important to NIH,” she said. “As a result, we can tie our data to those drivers and measure how successful we’re being.”

How does your agency evaluate and measure its telework programs? Will an automated system paint a more accurate picture of teleworking at your agency?