“Work is where we are, not what we do.” This is the core belief of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which maintains that workers who have more flexibility are more productive. The benefits of teleworking in the Federal Government have become so apparent that the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires government agencies to optimize these programs.
These many benefits include:
- Improved work/life balance
- Maintenance of continuity of operations (COOP) during emergencies
- Decreased carbon footprint of commuting workers
- Improved worker productivity and morale
- Improved employee retention and recruitment
- Accommodation of persons with disabilities
- Reduced office space needs and facility operations costs
These five tips can help you make the most of your teleworking program:
1. Follow Teleworking Best Practices
Strategy First, Technology Second
According to Tonya Schreiber of FEMA, “If it doesn’t work in the field, it doesn’t work.” Relying on solid technology and applying field teleworking principles to work in the office setting reinforces the commitment to teleworking as more than a contingency plan.
A Team Effort
Not limited to the agency itself, the team includes vendors who can supply robust and secure software solutions and mobile devices to get the job done. Agencies need tools such as cloud applications and storage, as well as communication methods for effective collaboration that keep information secure.
Ron Ross, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, recommends a data architecture infrastructure that links data types with specific personnel. By limiting access to protected information, the risk of significant security breaches is diminished.
Have a Contingency Plan
If technologies or other systems fail, then what? Everyone on the team needs to be familiar with emergency protocols during an outage, so continuity of operations is maintained.
2. Be Accountable
Working remotely means you need to be more accountable and transparent than ever. Connect on a regular or scheduled basis, and make sure everyone knows the best and expected methods for connectivity, as well as an acceptable time period for response. Provide access to your schedule so others know your availability and how to find you when you’re needed.
3. Stay Focused
Results are key. You need to focus on your own outcomes, and if you supervise others, theirs as well. For everyone on your team, set clear expectations, monitor progress regularly, and reward performance. One effective method is to maintain regular and timely accountability through regular check-in meetings, both for your direct reports and those you answer to.
4. Follow Communication Best Practices
Establish a routine of team communication that everyone can count on, using technology systematically to make it happen. Technology options are endless, but a few basics practices are common and critical.
Know how to use all functions on your VOIP phone remotely, including:
- Checking messages
- Changing your voicemail message
- Forwarding your VOIP number to your mobile phone
- Answering your VOIP line using your computer’s soft phone
Know how to use your mobile devices remotely, including:
- Accessing wireless networks on your computer
- Accessing your agency’s intranet through VPN
- Using web-mail
Know how to share information, including:
- Accessing shared drives to upload and retrieve documents
- Using the shared drive for universal access
- Following best practices for remote meetings
- Using your phone’s mute button to eliminate background noise
5. Maintain Security
Teleworkers must take individual responsibility for safeguarding sensitive data by:
- Understanding and adhering to the agency’s information security policies
- Participating in applicable security trainings
- Maintaining security of all relevant material and equipment
- Using secure protocols for connecting remotely
- Considering a locked storage system in the home office
There are many resources available to help your agency improve its teleworking program. The GSA provides an excellent teleworking guide, as does the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Further resources can be found on the GSA site, Resources for Managing Teleworkers.
As teleworking grows in popularity, so will the challenges inherent to this alternate work style. By following proven tips and best practices, your teleworking program can be efficient and effective.