Is it Time to Retire ‘Telework?’


Some feel telework focus limits mobility goals.

A recent report by Global Workforce Analytics and Citrix found that a few respondents believe that the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act has actually hindered the progress of telework at their agency. Instead of focusing on a broader mobility strategy, for example, some telework coordinators believe the law has narrowed their focus solely to telework.

Do those results indicate that it may be time for the federal government to move beyond the term telework in favor of an overall mobility strategy?

Not necessarily, says Cindy Auten, general manager for Mobile Work Exchange. Earlier this year, Auten’s organization – previously known as Telework Exchange – rebranded itself under the new name and expanded its mission to include mobile IT discussions across the federal government.

“We did move from the term telework and took a step back and looked at how the federal government is handling mobile work as it relates to telework,” Auten said. “But there is still a role for telework, and that shouldn’t be put aside. It’s a driving force for how agencies are adopting mobile technology.”

Having a structured telework program, for example, makes it easier for agencies to quantify return-on-investment, Auten said. The Telework Enhancement Act was a starting point for many agencies, and having these structured telework programs in place has really set the federal government apart on implementation, she added.

While some private sector companies like Yahoo! and HP have embraced a perhaps ill-defined mobility strategy only to scrap it later, agencies have benefited from a cautious well-defined implementation of telework.

“The catch with telework is that not every case is a telework case,” Auten said. She compared examples like the Patent and Trademark Office, where much of the work is conducive to telework, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which has more of a mobile workforce than a telework workforce.

“You have to look at the model of the work they do and decide whether they’re a teleworker or a mobile employee,” she said. “But every job includes some form of telework, you just might not see ATF being 80 percent teleworking like you see PTO just because of the work that they do.”

What are your thoughts? Is it time for the federal government to retire the term telework? Or are structured programs key to ensuring telework success?