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
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?
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
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 www.teleworkexchange.com/townhallmeeting
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.