With strong support from Congress, President Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act 2010 last December.
The Act requires agencies across the US to step up efforts to implement telework to help ensure continuity of operations, reduce management costs and improve employees’ ability to balance their work and life commitments.
The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has reviewed all agency policies against a best practices checklist, developed by an interagency team of telework experts and all agencies have received customised feedback on their policies, to assist each agency revise its telework policy in accordance with the Act.
By June 9, all agencies must revise their telework policies, determine the eligibility of all employees and notify all employees of their telework status. The Act also requires that all eligible employees and their managers receive interactive telework training and enter into written telework agreements.
As the lead agency for implementation of the Act, OPM has been tasked with coordinating resources to help agencies meet the requirements of the Act as well as best practices so that agencies may successfully use telework as a management tool to get work done.
It is clear that the drive towards higher levels of teleworking are driven, at least in part by the recognition of the contribution telework capabilities can make to national resilience. Having a dispersed, connected workforce is seen as an important step to ensuring that the United States Government can continue to carry out mission-critical activities in the event of an emergency.
By helping support a distributed workforce, telework is a tool for emergency planning at all levels – from snowstorms that close offices in a region for a day or two, to pandemic influenza that may affect operations over the course of weeks or even months.
The key to successful use of telework in the event of a crisis is deemed to be an effective routine telework program. Managers are required to ensure as many employees as possible have telework capability (i.e., current telework arrangements, connectivity, and equipment commensurate with their work needs and frequent enough opportunities to telework to ensure all systems have been tested and are known to be functional). This will require creative thinking beyond current implementation of telework, drawing in employees who otherwise might not engage in remote access and ensuring their effectiveness as a distributed workforce.
Read more about telework in the United States at www.telework.gov