Telework Participation Reaches New Heights

More than 20 percent of federal workers are using the alternative work arrangement.

Agencies hit their first telework reporting milestone after the enactment of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, and results show that telework participation has more than doubled since 2009.
The 2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government report, released Monday by the Office of Personnel Management, found that telework participation rates increased from 10 percent in calendar year 2009 to approximately 21 percent in September 2011.
Prior to the 2012 telework report, agencies submitted telework data to OPM only on a voluntary basis, so the numbers may not reflect a direct comparison. It’s also important to note that the period of time for which agencies reported their telework numbers – September and October 2011 – was just a few months after the deadline for meeting Telework Enhancement requirements.
“This is a significant milestone,” OPM Director John Berry said. “Not only does this highlight tangible changes in telework practices across the federal government, it also serves as a baseline for measuring the effects of telework in the future.”
One other important aspect of the Telework Enhancement Act is the requirement that all agencies determine and notify all employees of their eligibility to telework. OPM’s report found that agencies have identified 684,589, or roughly 32 percent, of all federal employees as eligible to telework.
Those participation and eligibility numbers are in stark contrast to figures released by Telework Exchange and Juniper Networks in June 2011, which marked the first major deadline for agencies to comply with the 2010 act. At that time, telework managing officers estimated that about 72 percent of federal employees were eligible to telework and 32 percent were doing so at that time.
In addition, last week, I wrote about how agencies’ continuity of operations after a major storm in the D.C. area was a testament to telework’s progress over the past couple of years. This was affirmed in the report: agencies that collectively employ more than 99 percent of the federal workforce have incorporated telework into their COOP plans. 
Still, some challenges for telework remain, particularly agencies’ ability to effectively measure and track telework data as well as some managers’ lack of comfort with directing employees who telework, the report found.
What are your thoughts on where telework participation stands as of fall 2011? What challenges remain for telework at your agency?