At my college, ballroom dancing was the largest club on campus. But ask as I might, I could never find a single student whod admit even a passing interest in the rumba. Lets cha-cha forward some 20 years: Government managers who oppose telework are like the ballroom dancing aficionados in college; we know there are a lot of you, but nobodys out on the floor.

Telework is certainly not a new craze in government. In fact, Uncle Sam has spent decades trying to move his distributed workforce to the beat. Despite legislation, the $4 gallon of gas, bird flu, H1N1, hurricane planning, green initiatives, cloud enablement, traffic gridlock, and so on, many agencies still have two left-feet in telework.

Considering its mission, how can the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continue to sit out at the dance? When will wall flowers such as the Social Security Administration, the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Homeland Security find the courage to unleash their moves?

New Groove

Against this awkward backdrop, is there any hope that regular Feds will get to dance cheek-to-cheek with telework? Even with the false starts and the slander of the Department of Veterans Affairs laptop going missing (the employee was not a teleworker, by the way), there is new skip in my step. In fact, a series of agencies are getting hip to workforce empowerment.

The Department of Defense (DOD), with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) keeping time, is marching with a telework cadence. DODs base relocation (BRAC), and pointedly, its impact on the civilian workforce, is turning all branches of the military into telework swingers. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and General Accountability Office (GAO) have the telework jitterbug. Indeed, PTO may have invented the dance.

And lets not forget the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). While GSAs Office of Governmentwide Policy kept the telework flame alive through the dark years, it was the late Lurita Doan who reignited the fire two years ago by establishing the GSA Telework Challenge. Today, 43 percent of eligible GSA workers do the telework jig. GSA is now tangoing with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the middle of the federal telework dance floor.


The recent arrival of new OPM Director John Berry, who pledged to put the giddy-yap into federal telework, has sent the topic to the top of the federal human resources hit parade. Capitol Hill and agencies are abuzz with praise for the new cats at OPM.

Outside the Beltway, states are snapping their fingers to the telework beat. Earlier last month, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine announced the results of the Commonwealths 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, they would avoid driving some 134 billion miles, cut 120 million tons of pollutants, and save a staggering $161.5 billion.

And support for telework comes all the way from the band leader himself. In addition to being the worlds highest profile teleworker, President Obama pledged his support for remote work practices across government in writing to the American Federation of Government Employees: I believe that its time we stopped talking about family values and started pursuing policies that truly value families, such as paid family leave, flexible work schedules, and telework, with the federal government leading by example.

More than just offering lip service, some 500 gathered to listen to Berry and Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer and long-time telework advocate, cut a rug together at the recent Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting. (Go to to learn more.) Chopra is no wallflower. Hes clear on the federal governments innovation agenda and sees telework as a signature move on the dance floor.

During the meeting, Berry spotlighted OPMs Investigative Services, the group that handles government personnel security clearances. The department reinvented the process and used telework as their secret move. In fact, Investigative Services reduced the security clearance processing time from one year in 2001 to less than 40 days today. Almost 5,000 investigators did the telework quickstep from their homes.

This is the time to take telework to the next level. The technology is maturing and our people are becoming more and more comfortable with it. It is essential if we are going to make government cool againas President Obama has instructed us to do, Berry said.