Revving up telework, Obama style

Five-part federal telework plan drawn from two bills introduced in Congress

OPM director John Berry today announced a five-part plan to increase participation in longstanding but poorly adopted federal telework programs.

John Berry, the newly installed director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, today announced a five-part plan to increase participation in the federal government’s longstanding but poorly adopted telework programs.

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"I'm here to put some giddy-up into telework," said Berry, who was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 4 to serve as the administration's chief adviser on human resources issues for the nation's 1.9 million federal employees. The Senate confirmed his appointment in early April.

"I was raised in the D.C. metropolitan area, so I know a little something about the traffic congestion that frustrates commuters and saps them of energy even before they get to the office," Berry said in a statement released Wednesday. "With a sensible approach to creating model telework programs, thousands more employees will work from home one or two days each week on a regular basis -- and thousands fewer will be on the road."

Today, only 5% of federal employees telework, according to data from OPM.

Telework programs have long been a part of agencies' business-continuity plans, but adoption has stalled despite grassroots and legislative efforts to increase participation. Berry's pitch for greater teleworking cites economic and social benefits. In addition, OPM stresses that teleworking can enable the uninterrupted delivery of government services if employees need to work from home in the event of a natural disaster or pandemic, for example.

Berry's five-part plan calls for:

* Convening an advisory group to formulate telework policy standards (to be reviewed every three years).

* Directing agencies to submit telework policies for standards review.

* Encouraging agencies to establish the position of Telework Managing Officer.

* Promoting a transparent appeals process for employees whose telework requests are denied.

* Emphasizing telework training for managers and employees.

According to OPM, the components of Berry's plan are drawn from two bills introduced in Congress. H.R. 1722, the "Telework Improvements Act of 2009," was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), and Frank Wolf (R-Va.). The "Telework Enhancement Act of 2009" (S.707), was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and co-sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).

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