According to recent results of the recently released 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, telework is highly valued by federal office workers, who, on average, telework one to two days a week. Agencies cutting back on telework showed the most employee dissatisfaction.

The most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey included 78 items that measure employees’ perceptions about how effectively their organization manages its workforce. The survey is grouped into seven topic areas and telework is covered under satisfaction and work/life programs. This is a list of all the areas covered in the survey:

  • Personal Work Experiences
  • Work Unit
  • Agency
  • Supervisor
  • Leadership
  • Satisfaction
  • Work/Life Programs

Eight years ago, the Obama administration signed the Telework Act of 2010, with the intention of making telework a more viable and widely-accepted option for federal workers. Since then, follow up surveys have shown that telework is a valued option that increases workplace satisfaction for federal employees.

Which is why it’s surprising that in the past year some federal agencies and departments,  in response to internal leadership concerns about customer service failings, have implemented new telework restrictions and guidance, citing a need to balance responsibility to taxpayers with employee wishes.

Who Can Telework and Who Can’t?

Since some government agencies and departments have employees with duties and roles that preclude telework – think law enforcement and similar industries – telework is reserved for office work positions where agencies have drawn up agreements with rules each person must sign-off on. It’s when employees abuse or ignore the telework agreements when problems arise.

So, what happens when an agency decides to change the policy because some employees break the agreements? Two agencies had a reduction in employees allowed to telework in the beginning of 2018 and subsequently changed their telework policies.

The benefits of telework

Agency-wide changes in telework agreements can have overarching impacts on transportation and traffic in the DMV, since there is a high federal employee density. This can affect overall job satisfaction and a possibility of federal employees looking to change agencies, or even leave the federal workforce.

In general, telework isn’t going away, and as the survey shows, is considered a valuable work/life balance perk, so the federal government should pay attention to respondents and find more effective ways to manage telework programs within agencies. Throwing out telework is not a sensible long-term solution, and may turn-off future job seekers with talents they can certainly use.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.