GAO Offers Best Practices in Telework for Agencies


Congressional watchdogs highlight how agencies should—safely and securely—telework.

For most of 2020, federal agencies—staffed by hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors—have turned to telework to meet mission delivery, serve citizens and perform critical government functions.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the ability to telework has become a critical strategy for agencies as the COVID-19 pandemic wages on. But the Congressional watchdog issued a reminder Wednesday—in the form of a telework study—that most agencies are not employing best practices to ensure successful telework programs.

The study precedes two recently initiated reviews of federal telework, which will study the extend to which agencies have employed telework during the pandemic as well as agencies’ telework IT infrastructures. In the meantime, however, GAO encouraged agencies to review their telework programs and ensure they aspire to meet seven key best practices:  

  • Program planning: Consistent with a key practice GAO identified, agencies are required to have a telework managing officer. Other key practices related to planning for a telework program include establishing measurable telework program goals, and providing funding to meet the needs of the telework program.
  • Telework policies: Agencies can help ensure their workforces are telework ready by establishing telework policies and guidance. To ensure that teleworkers are approved on an equitable basis, agencies should establish eligibility criteria, such as suitability of tasks and employee performance. Agencies should also have telework agreements for use between teleworkers and their managers.
  • Performance management: Agencies should ensure that the same performance standards are used to evaluate both teleworkers and non-teleworkers. Agencies should also establish guidelines to minimize the adverse impacts that telework can have on non-teleworkers.
  • Managerial support: For telework programs to be successful agencies need support from top management. They also need to address managerial resistance to telework.
  • Training and publicizing: Telework training helps agencies ensure a common understanding of the program. The act requires agencies to provide telework training to employees eligible to telework and to managers of teleworkers. Keeping the workforce informed about the program also helps.
  • Technology: Agencies need to make sure teleworkers have the right technology to successfully perform their duties. To that end, agencies should assess teleworker and organization technology needs, provide technical support to teleworkers, and address access and security issues.
  • Program evaluation: Agencies should develop program evaluation tools and use such tools from the very inception of the program to identify problems or issues. Agencies can then use this information to make any needed adjustments to their programs.