Feds Still Ahead on Telework

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Government leads the private sector on expanding opportunities to work remotely.

While the federal government often gets a bad rap for being slower than the private sector on implementing new technologies and adapting to new ways of working, there’s at least one area where government is leading the charge: telework.

A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that the number of organizations offering telework to employees has changed little over the past four years, even despite some significant advances in technology. Just 58 percent of organizations offer some type of telecommuting benefits, up slightly from 51 percent in 2009, SHRM found.

In addition, the majority of organizations that offer telework only offer the benefit on an ad-hoc basis. Forty-five percent of organizations offer ad-hoc telework agreements, and that figure has not increased since 2009. Just 36 percent of organizations offer telework on a part-time basis, and 20 percent offer it on a full-time basis, up from just 34 percent and 19 percent, respectively, the study found.

In addition, only 4 percent of organizations said they plan to begin offering telework to employees within the next 12 months, SHRM found.

While the Office of Personnel Management has yet to release the latest statistics on telework in the federal government, the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act required all federal agencies to implement telework and determine and notify employees of their eligibility to telework.

In addition, stats from this year’s Telework Week showed a sizeable increase in the number of feds teleworking. More than 112,000 federal employees participated in this year’s event, with 87 percent of them noting that they were engaged in a formal telework program prior to Telework Week.

In the age of budget cuts, pay freezes and sequestration, the government’s lead in expanding telework options may be what keeps its recruitment and retention strong, as many employees, particularly those in technology positions, have said that they would take a salary cut in exchange for telecommuting full-time.

What are your thoughts on the SHRM study? Does the government’s leadership on telework keep recruitment and retention strong?

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