MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 9/22/2009 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Back in college, ballroom dancing was the largest club on campus – but, ask as I might, I could never find a single student who’d admit even a passing interest in the rumba.  Let’s cha-cha forward some 20 years and government managers who oppose telework are like the ballroom dancing aficionados in college – we know there are a lot of you, but nobody wants to raise their hand.
Telework is certainly not a new craze in government.  In fact, Uncle Sam has spent decades trying to get his distributed workforce groove on – yes, that’s telework in leg warmers for those scoring at home.  And, despite hill legislation, the $4 gallon, bird flu, piggy flu, hurricane planning, green imperatives, cloud enablement, traffic gridlock, and plagues of frogs – please excuse the artistic license – many agencies still have two left feet in telework. Considering its mission, how can EPA continue to sit out at the dance?  When will wall flowers like SSA, HHS, State, and DHS pluck up the courage to unleash their moves?
Against this awkward backdrop, is there any hope that regular Feds will get to dance cheek to cheek with telework?  Despite the false starts, and the slander of the Department of Veterans Affairs laptop going missing – the employee was not a teleworker – there is new fight in this ‘80s glam gal.  In fact, a series of agencies are getting hip to workforce empowerment.  DoD, with DISA keeping time, is marching with a telework cadence.  BRAC relocation, and pointedly, its impact on the civilian workforce, is turning all branches of the military into telework swingers.  PTO, FDIC, and GAO have the telework jitterbug – in fact, PTO may have invented the dance.  And, let’s not forget GSA. While GSA OGP kept the telework flame alive through the dark years, it was the late, great Lurita Doan who reignited the fire two years ago – establishing the GSA Telework Challenge.  Today, 43 percent of eligible GSA workers do the telework jig.  GSA is now tangoing with OPM in the middle of the Federal telework dance floor.  The recent arrival of new OPM director John Berry –  the man who pledged to put the “giddy-yap” into Federal telework – has sent the topic to the top of the Federal HR hit parade.  The Hill and agencies are a buzz with praise for the new cats at OPM.
And, outside the Beltway, states are clicking their fingers to the telework beat.  Earlier this month, Virginia’s Governor, Tim Kaine, announced the results of the Commonwealth’s first annual statewide Telework Day initiative.  Based on the Virginia Telework Day study figures, if all U.S. white-collar workers teleworked just one day per week for a year, we'd avoid driving some 134 billion miles, cut 120 million tons of pollutants, and save a staggering $161.5 billion – yes, that’s American money.
Oh, and support for telework comes all the way from the band leader himself.  In addition to being the world's highest profile teleworker, President Obama pledged his support for remote work practices across government in writing to the AFGE – “I believe that it’s time we stopped talking about family values and start pursuing policies that truly value families, such as paid family leave, flexible work schedules, and telework, with the Federal government leading by example.”  And, more than lip service, more than 400 Feds gathered to listen to OPM’s John Berry, and Aneesh Chopra, CTO OSTP at EOP – long-time telework advocate – cut a rug together at the recent Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting