More Federal Employees Are Teleworking More Often

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The uptick is slight but steady, survey of feds shows.

The number of federal employees who telework is up slightly this year, according to a major survey released Friday.

Feds who reported they telework three or more days a week (4 percent), those teleworking one to two days a week (10 percent) and those who telework only rarely (11 percent) all rose one percentage point, compared with last year, according to the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Fewer feds who don’t telework said technology was their primary obstacle (5 percent versus 6 percent the last two years). The number who said they weren’t approved for telework despite having telework-appropriate jobs dropped to 20 percent from 21 percent last year.

Of the 392,752 survey respondents, 77 percent said they were happy with their agencies' telework program -- up from 76 percent last year and 70 percent in 2011.

Kate Lister, president of the consultancy Global Workplace Analytics, said the trend in government mirrors what’s happening in the private sector.

“As employees and their managers get familiar with working remotely, they begin to do it more frequently,” she said.

“The ‘sweet spot’ both in terms of the benefits (i.e. real estate savings, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism and turnover) tends to be two to three days a week,” she said. “That gives people a good mix of the benefits of being alongside their colleagues and working remotely.”

The Obama administration and lawmakers have generally promoted an expansion of federal telework programs, part of continuity-of-operation plans to keep the government functioning during difficult conditions such as extreme weather, as well as to reduce management costs, environmental impacts and commuting expenses.

Officials also recognize improved employee quality of life as a desirable result of strong telework programs, which can help recruit and retain new hires.

But federal telework has been in the hot seat in recent months since a scandal over the program at the Patent and Trademark Office, where some patent examiners allegedly based their reported time worked on the number of patents they examined rather than on the number of hours they spent reviewing them.

(Image via kazoka/Shutterstock.com)