Barriers to Telework Remain, Survey Finds

Majority of federal employees surveyed say telework progress is too slow in coming.

by / November 21, 2011

A new study revealed that 69 percent of federal employees said the federal government telework progress is not improving fast enough.

Government IT media group Fedscoop’s teleworking study Telework 2011: Federal Government and Industry Outlook on Telework, released earlier this month, surveyed more than 300 IT executives from the federal government and private sector on where they stand with teleworking implementation. The study was sponsored by HP and Intel.

Teleworking is often seen as a work method with long-term benefits: cost savings for a company or agency, less time driving to and from an office and increased work efficiency. But even with the passing of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, teleworking efforts at the federal government level have been stifled due to a lack of proper guidelines, necessary teleworking equipment and a lack of security guidelines, according to the study.

According to Christina Morrison, public-sector marketing manager at HP, she wasn’t surprised that government employees felt telework progress isn’t improving faster than it is. Since the Telework Enhancement Act was passed — to promote telework as a way for employees to better manage home and work life, to reduce costs and improve continuity of work operations — many agencies still haven’t completed comprehensive guidelines and policies for teleworking.

“They need to sit down — the federal telework managers — some of whom just got the job months ago and figure out how to implement a successful telework program,” Morrison said. “So they need to start with writing what the guidelines are.”

Morrison said once guidelines are in place, telework managers can start working with their colleagues in IT to figure out what technology is needed to support a remote office, which could improve telework operations. According to the study, 43 percent of federal employees surveyed said their agency does not provide them with technology that sufficiently supports teleworking.

But even with the proper equipment, how many federal government employees get to telework? The study showed that while nine out of 10 federal managers said that they trust their employees to work from a remote location, only 61 percent of respondents said their managers allow them to do so.

Security factors in as a key issue for allowing federal government employees to telework and according to Morrison, telework managers need to develop a separate set of security guidelines employees must follow.

“[Guidelines] like ‘Do you have a privacy screen on your laptop?’ should be made so if you are working from a Starbucks or from an airplane, the person sitting next to you or behind you isn’t overlooking and reading your data,” Morrison said.

According to the study’s recommendations, agencies and organizations should ensure that telework employees fully understand the technology regarding teleworking. Agencies should also invest in technology with security built into the teleworking equipment hardware, firmware and software and ensure they work together to address critical aspects of information security.

“Security is a two-way street,” Morrison said. “And you need to be aware of how to protect your data just as you would if you were in the office.”


Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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