DOD Details Civilian Personnel Telework Changes
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2012 Defense officials announced decisions designed to strengthen telework and make it more attractive to supervisors and employees, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy said here yesterday.
Paige Hinkle-Bowles said the changes to the telework program require DOD leaders to promote telework within their respective components.
In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Hinkle-Bowes said the changes look to overcome barriers that previously limited the use of the telework tool for defense managers.
The changes are far-reaching. All civilian positions in the department need to be marked as being eligible or not eligible for telework. “All employees need to be notified if they are eligible for telework in the position they are in,” Hinkle-Bowles said.
Also, any employee in a telework-eligible position who opts to telework must sign a telework agreement with the supervisor, and both the supervisor and employee need to attend training on the program. In the past, the program required only the employee to attend training.
The final big change is to incorporate how to include emergency and contingency operations into the telework policy and how to use telework in those operations, Hinkle-Bowles said.
In fact, the department has practiced keeping the government open in the face of possible threats ranging from a pandemic flu outbreak or natural disasters to localized emergencies such as snow storms.
“We would like telework to change a bit more than it has,” Hinkle-Bowles said. “A big part of the policy is to have the culture change so people understand that telework is really work, and employees are held accountable. Supervisors should have a way to hold those employees accountable and keep the work moving.”
The most recent data, from 2009, showed that about 5 percent of DOD employees teleworked. Hinkle-Bowles said she believes the trend is up, but 2012 statistics won’t be available from the Office of Personnel Management until this summer.
Government leaders are pushing the program. They see telework as a way to cut down commute times and relieve pressures in government offices. It’s also a quality-of-life issue that can be employed to attract and retain the best workers. The changes grew out of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.
Most office employees will qualify for the telework option. However, some employees, by the nature of their work, will not. Some show-stoppers include jobs requiring daily handling of classified materials, jobs requiring face-to-face interactions with customers, or jobs requiring face-to-face interactions with co-workers.
Still, “as long as the employee is doing the work from an alternate work site, it really should be transparent to the office and the customers,” Hinkle-Bowles said.