Telework Keeps DISA Up and Running

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Some feds are required to take their laptops home every day.

Wednesday marked another day of snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area that left federal employees with the option to take unscheduled leave or telework to avoid the slippery commute into the office. Most of the Defense Information Systems Agency's employees were prepared the evening before.

That’s because employees received an email on Tuesday evening ordering them to take their laptops home to be prepared for potential telework on Wednesday, when one to three inches of snow was projected to blanket the capital region.  

“We now require regular and reoccurring teleworkers to take their laptops home every day,” Paul Berry, chief of the quality of work life office at DISA, said in a webinar sponsored by Mobile Work Exchange on Wednesday. “They’re always prepared to telework.”

DISA expanded its telework program in 2008, in large part to help transition its employees from Northern Virginia to Fort Meade, Md., as part of the agency’s BRAC relocation. More than 4,000 DISA employees now participate in the agency’s telework program on a regular or ad hoc basis.

“We practice our telework quite frequently through quarterly exercises, though we have not had to use our exercises this particular quarter,” Berry said. “Because of all the snow we’ve had in D.C., we’ve been teleworking a lot.”

One of the keys to successful telework at DISA has been training on telework for agency supervisors that emphasizes the importance of managing employees – whether teleworkers or in-office workers – the same way. This is done through encouraging a work plan for all employees to monitor and track their performance, regardless of their work location, Berry said.

As part of the BRAC relocation, DISA began replacing desktop computers with laptops with integrated VPN systems for all employees whether they telework or not. Phone forwarding and conference call ability through Defense Connect Online also has helped diffuse some of the culture change, he said.

“Even though we don’t have 100 percent participation in telework, everybody actually is capable of teleworking,” Berry said. “I recall four years ago when we had the snowstorm in the D.C. area and the government closed down for four days. DISA kept on rolling, and employees were very actively engaged.”