Telework in the Federal Government: Background, Policy, and Oversight
CRS Report for Congress
Telework in the Federal Government:
Background, Policy, and Oversight
Updated April 3, 2002
Lorraine H. Tong and Barbara L. Schwemle
Analysts in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Telework in the Federal Government:
Background, Policy, and Oversight
Advances in information and computer technology; the development of the
Internet; and the explosion of wireless and digital products, including powerful
laptops, hand-held electronic devices, and remote work-access capabilities, have given
some federal employees the ability to telework — work anytime from almost
anyplace. Telework emerged as an option for the federal workforce over the last
decade. Management considerations, such as productive and satisfied workers;
environmental considerations, such as reduced traffic congestion and improved air
quality; and quality of life considerations, such as accommodating the short- or long-
term health problems or family responsibilities of employees, have been offered as
justification for telework programs. Some believe that the September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the discovery of
anthrax in Washington, DC, and other cities have fundamentally changed the
workplace and demonstrated the practical application of telework to the continued
operation of the government. Issues of security, crisis management, disaster recovery,
and remote access to office computer systems are prompting some federal executive
and legislative branch agencies and their employees to expand existing telework
programs or to consider telework, although in many cases, how to implement
telework remains unclear.
Reservations about telework include managerial concerns about maintaining
performance and productivity in the office or organization with fewer workers at the
central site; the security of government records and the use of software licensed to the
government on computers at the alternative work sites; and the availability of funding
to provide necessary support for employees to work away from the main office. The
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported in January 2002 that 74,487 federal
employees telecommute. It is not known how many legislative branch staff telework.
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the judicial branch does
not currently have any teleworkers. Policies on telework are evolving. General
policies and guidance on telework programs in the executive branch have been
established by the General Services Administration and OPM. Although there are no
corresponding entities in the legislative branch, a comparison of the policies and
guidance for existing telework programs in this branch indicate that they are quite
similar to those in the executive branch. Among the factors that reportedly contribute
to successful telework experiences are top management support, a clear telework
agreement that includes expectations and measurable goals, and accountability and
Congress may remain interested in the issue of federal telework. Section 359 of
P.L. 106-346 directs executive agencies to establish policies under which eligible
employees could telecommute. The House Subcommittee on Technology and
Procurement Policy conducted hearings in March and September 2001 on telework.
This report discusses telework in the federal government, including background,
views on telework, policy, implementation within the executive and legislative
branches, and future considerations.
Introduction ................................................... 1
Background .................................................... 3
1980s ..................................................... 4
1990s ..................................................... 4
Condition of the Infrastructure..............................7
Demands on the Transit System.............................7
Views on Telework..............................................8
Telework in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001..............10
Reservations .............................................. 13
Tasks and Positions.....................................13
Equity and Morale......................................13
Productivity ........................................... 13
Staff Work Style and Turnover.............................14
Impact on Organizational Culture...........................14
Policy ....................................................... 14
Implementation ................................................ 17
OPM Report to Congress.................................18
House Committee on Appropriations........................19
Telework Issues Working Group...........................19
Telecenters ............................................ 21
Studies ............................................... 24
Members of Congress....................................30
State and District Staff...................................30
House of Representatives.................................31
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)...............33
House Sergeant at Arms..................................33
Senate ............................................... 33
Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA)............................34
Legislative Branch Support Agencies............................34
Architect of the Capitol (AOC)............................34
Congressional Budget Office (CBO).........................34
General Accounting Office (GAO)..........................35
Library of Congress.....................................37
Oversight ..................................................... 38
Managing Telework Policies..................................38
Office of Personnel Management...........................38
General Services Administration............................38
Federal Railroad Administration............................38
National Industries for the Severely Handicapped...............39
American Telephone and Telegraph.........................39
Washington Metropolitan Telework Centers...................39
Public and Private Approaches to Telework.......................40
General Accounting Office................................40
Office of Personnel Management...........................40
General Services Administration............................40
Information Technology Association of America...............41
Siemens Enterprise Networks..............................41
CarrAmerica .......................................... 41
Security and Confidentiality...................................42
Privacy .................................................. 42
Health and Safety...........................................43
Funding .................................................. 44
Training .................................................. 45
Conclusion ................................................... 45
Telework in the Federal Government:
Background, Policy, and Oversight
Telework, working away from the traditional office, dates from the early 1930s,
was publicly advocated in the early 1960s and late 1970s, and emerged as an option
for the federal workforce over the last decade. Advances in information and
computer technology; the development of the Internet; and the explosion of wireless
and digital products, including powerful laptops, hand-held electronic devices, and
remote work-access capabilities, have given some federal employees the ability to
work anytime from almost anyplace. The employee’s home, a telework center, a
client’s office, or an automobile may serve as the alternative worksite. Telework is
also referred to as flexiplace, telecommuting, alternate work location, or alternative
worksite, and these terms are used interchangeably in this report.
Management considerations, such as productive and satisfied workers;
environmental considerations, such as reduced traffic congestion and improved air
quality; and quality of life considerations, such as accommodating the short or long-
term health problems or family responsibilities of employees, are often cited as
benefits of establishing telework programs.
The practical application of telework to the continued operation of the
government is being examined in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the discovery of anthrax
in Washington, DC, and other cities. Federal executive and legislative branch
agencies and their employees are considering telework to help address issues of
security, crisis management, disaster recovery, and remote access to office computer
systems. Some advocates say that telework could have an important role in an
agency’s emergency preparedness plans. In their view, having people with different
areas of expertise (such as budget/financial, human resources, information technology)
teleworking or prepared to telework could help ensure that in the event of a serious
disruption of work at the main headquarters, teleworking staff could perform essential
Reservations about telework include managerial concerns about maintaining
performance and productivity in the office or organization with fewer workers at the
central site; the security of government records and the use of software licensed to the
government on computers at the alternative work sites; and the availability of funding
to provide necessary support for employees to work away from the main office.
These issues will require continuous evaluation as decisions are made on the extent
to which telework programs might be implemented in the executive and legislative
General policies and guidance on the implementation of telework programs in
the executive branch have been established by the General Services Administration
(GSA) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).1 Although the legislative
branch has no corresponding entities, a comparison of the policies and guidance for
this branch (where telework programs exist) indicate that they are quite similar to
those of the executive branch.2 GSA reported that about 26,000 executive branch
employees (less than 1% of the total executive branch workforce3) were teleworking4
as of October 1999. OPM reported in January 2002 that 74,487 federal employees
telecommute.5 It is not known how many legislative branch staff telework. According
to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the judicial branch does not currently
have any teleworkers.6
Because Congress maintains a high level of interest in the productivity of the
federal workforce, it is expected to monitor the implementation and evaluation of
telework programs in the federal government. Section 359 of the Department of
Transportation Appropriations Bill for FY2001 (P.L. 106-346), which was signed by
the President on October 23, 2000, includes a provision directing executive agencies
to establish policies under which eligible employees could telecommute to the
1U.S. General Services Administration, Implementation Manual for Telecommuting/
Telework, available on the Internet at [http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mp/library/policydocs/
mworkplce.htm]; U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Telework/Telecommuting, available
on the Internet at [http://www.opm.gov/wrkfam/telecomm/telecomm.htm], both Web sites
visited Dec. 17, 2001. On July 5, 2001, GSA and OPM launched an Interagency Telework/
Telecommuting Site, [http://www.telework.gov/], visited Dec. 17, 2001, which has links to
the Web sites of both agencies as well as guidance and policies from other agencies, including
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
2A formally established telework program is distinct from other personnel policies for work
at home that already may have been implemented by individual entities in both the executive
and legislative branches.
3OPM reported that the executive branch civilian workforce totaled 2,640,859 as of May 2001
(most current data available). See: U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Civilian
Workforce Statistics; Employment and Trends as of May 2001 (Washington: OPM, 2001),
4Kellie Lunney, “Managers Still Tepid About Telecommuting,” July 26, 2000. Available on
the Internet at [http://www.govexec.com/news/], visited Dec. 17, 2001. In Oct. 1998, OPM
reported that there were 24,889 federal teleworkers in 42 federal departments and agencies.
See: U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Memorandum for Directors of Personnel, from
Steven R. Cohen, Director, Office of Workforce Relations, Nov. 20, 1998.
5U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Report to the Congress; The Status of Telework in
the Federal Government (Washington: OPM, Jan. 2002), p. 6.
6In its December 1995 Long-Range Plan for the Federal Courts, the Judicial Conference of
the United States recommended that “Working conditions for court support personnel should
be progressive and make provision for,” among other things, “flexible work arrangements.”
According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, its staff have attended seminars
on telework. It is not aware of any judicial employees who are currently teleworking.
(Telephone conversation with the Administrative Office, Dec. 5, 2000.)
maximum extent possible and without diminished performance.7 OPM submitted a
report to Congress on agency compliance in January 2002. Conference report
language on the provision directs OPM to evaluate the program and report to8
Congress within one year. A Telework Issues Working Group has been established
in the executive branch to facilitate the implementation of the law’s provisions and to
determine what further guidance or legislation are needed.
In the legislative branch, the House of Representatives established a
telecommuting policy in October 1999 that is available for use by employing offices.9
While the Senate does not have a Senate-wide policy, the Senate Sergeant at Arms
office established a policy for that office in October 1998. Two legislative branch
support agencies — the Congressional Budget Office (alternate work location) and
the General Accounting Office (flexiplace) — also have implemented telework
policies. The Library of Congress is in the last stages of implementing a pilot
Noteworthy in the early history of telework are these occurrences:
As early as 1934 when the NCUA [National Credit Union Administration] was the
Federal Credit Union Bureau, credit union examiners conducted their examinations
at credit union sites and then completed their reports at home. Neither the NCUA
nor its predecessor provided office space for credit union examiners.... [T]he
NCUA implemented a work-at-home program for its auditors that is still operating
The earliest effort to generate a Federal telework program, however, appears to
have occurred in the early 60's when Jack Nilles, commonly considered to be the
father of telework, began teleworking from Los Angeles to Washington, DC while
working as a consulting rocket scientist to the U.S. Air Force Space Program.
Inspired by this experience, Nilles coined both the words “telecommuting” and
“teleworking” in 1973.
The first person to generate Federal experimentation with telework was Frank
Schiff. At the time, Schiff was Vice President and Chief Economist for the
7P.L. 106-346, section 359, Oct. 23, 2000, 114 Stat. 1356.
8U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, 2000, Making Appropriations for the Department
of Transportation and Related Agencies for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2001, andth
for Other Purposes, conference report to accompany H.R. 4475, H.Rept. 106-940, 106nd
Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2000), p. 151. (Hereafter cited as H.Rept. 106-940.)
9In accordance with House Administration Committee resolution 106-1-21, adopted Oct. 21,
Committee for Economic Development.10 In 1979, Schiff published an article in
the Washington Post in which he challenged the Federal Government to look at
management practices, union rules, and Federal laws and regulations in an effort
to facilitate working at home as a means of improving productivity, saving costs,
and saving energy (this was at the height of the energy crisis ...). During that same
time, Schiff coined the term “Flexiplace” to encompass not only work-at-home but
also such other flexible location arrangements as satellite work centers.... [I]n
contrast to such terms as “telecommuting,” [flexiplace] stressed increased
flexibility in the location of work, whether or not this is based on the use of11
Among other early examples of telework were a 1980 experiment at an Army
facility in St. Louis and a 1989 flexiplace pilot study lasting six months at the
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
facility. The Army project was discontinued when “[d]espite the fact that the program
performed successfully (project manager evaluations), an army audit team concluded
that the potential benefits were exceeded by the risks of fraud and abuse.” The final
report on the EPA pilot “was generally positive about the feasibility of Flexiplace
arrangements.”12 When the Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged EPA’s offices
in San Francisco, California, on October 17, 1989, the agency “responded by
establishing an auxiliary command post for 80 employees and work-at-home13
arrangements for the remaining 700+ workers.” In 1989, GSA found that “[a]
substantial number of Federal agencies were already utilizing informal, as-needed
telework arrangements that were established typically on a case-by-case (individual
Over the last decade, telework has emerged as an option for managing the
federal workforce. “Beginning as early as 1990 and continuing throughout the
evolution of Federal telework, the program has enjoyed bi-partisan political support
from both the executive and legislative branches of government,” according to the
10According to its Internet Web site, “the Committee for Economic Development (CED) is an
independent, nonpartisan organization of business and education leaders dedicated to policy
research on the major economic and social issues of our time and the implementing of its
recommendations by the public and private sectors.” The Web site is [http://www.ced.org],
visited Dec. 17, 2001.
11U.S. General Services Administration, Evaluation and Innovative Workplaces Division
Office of Real Property, Office of Governmentwide Policy, The Evolution of Telework in the
Federal Government, by Wendell Joice (Washington: GSA, Feb. 2000), pp. 7-8, 11.
(Hereafter cited as Evolution of Telework.)
12Ibid., p. 9.
13Ibid., p. 10.
14Ibid., pp. 6-7. See also T. N. Cowley and W. H. Joice, Informal Work-at-Home
Arrangements in the Federal Government (Washington: GSA, 1989). Unpublished.
GSA study.15 In 1990, the President’s Council on Management Improvement
approved plans and guidance to implement a pilot flexiplace program
governmentwide. By January 1993, OPM had encouraged agency use of flexiplace16
and provided implementation guidance. Presidential memorandums in 1994 and
friendly workplace. GSA and the Department of Transportation continue to
coordinate a national telework initiative (NTI), begun in January 1996 by the
President’s Management Council, to encourage an increase in the number of federal
teleworkers. The NTI set a goal of having 160,000 federal employees participating
in telework by the end of 2002. Its earlier goal to have 60,000 teleworkers by
October 1998 was not met, and both GSA and Transportation are seeking to improve17
the initiative. Recent legislative provisions on telework are discussed in the
Implementation section below.
In the late 1990s, Senate/House discussions about telecommuting resulted in
three legislative branch entities — the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, the
Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Congressional Budget Office —
adopting telecommuting policies. Earlier, in June 1994, the General Accounting
Office established a flexiplace policy. Each Member’s office, committee and House
administrative office constitutes a separate employing authority. Therefore, no
legislative branch entity has central authority or jurisdiction to set policy for the entire
legislative branch.18 The House and the Senate each set their own chamber rules,
policies, and practices. Further, within each chamber, each Member’s office sets its
own office policies and programs, subject to applicable rules and regulations. Subject
to the jurisdiction of certain chamber rules and oversight, House and Senate
administrative offices that are separate employing offices may also set their own
policies and programs that include telework.
The federal government, as well as state and local governments, have increased
efforts to work with private businesses19 to promote telework.20 On October 24,
15Evolution of Telework, p. 14.
16 U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Telework/Telecommuting, available on the Internet
at [http://www.opm.gov/wrkfam/telecomm/telecomm.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
17For further information on the history of telework, see Evolution of Telework, especially pp.
18There is no single formal policy on telecommuting for all legislative branch entities. The
House and Senate have encouraged the Librarian of Congress to look at the feasibility of a
telecommuting program, which is discussed later in this report. Melanie Fonder,
“Telecommuting Gives Hill Staffers Flexibility,” The Hill, Oct. 27, 1999, p. 28.
19The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Education
and the Workforce published an August 1999 report on the American worker, which included
a section on telework, and conducted an October 1999 hearing on telework in the United
States. See U.S. Congress, House Committee on Education and the Workforce,
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, American Worker Project: Securing the
2000, Telework America Day, the First Annual Washington Area Conference on
Telework, was held. Co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of
Governments (MWCOG), the Fairfax County Government, and the International
Telework Association and Council (ITAC), the conference drew over 400 non-profit,
government, and business leaders who met to discuss issues and objectives and
promote telework in the Washington region. The conference focused on telework as
a possible solution to such issues as the area’s growing problems with traffic
congestion and air quality, employees’ balancing of work and family life, and hiring
and retaining skilled workers. MWCOG adopted a resolution setting a goal to expand
telework so that 20% of the area’s workforce would be working at home at least once
a week by 2005.21 A soon to be released MWCOG study on commuter trends reports
that 15% of the workforce in the metropolitan Washington area teleworks at least one
day a week, up from 12% reported in a similar survey in 1998.22 A telework
symposium on business continuity through telework, sponsored by the Metropolitan
Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) and the Mid-Atlantic Telework
Advisory Council (MATAC), is scheduled for April 9, 2002.
In support of expanding telework, then Secretary of Transportation Rodney
Slater reportedly urged all cabinet departments to help MWCOG meet its 2005 goals.
According to Secretary Slater, “The number of telecommuters in the region could
increase to 68,000,” and telework “would make a tremendous contribution to reduced
air pollution and congestion.”23 Additionally, some maintain that telework could
alleviate certain stresses and demands on the nation’s infrastructure and transit
Future of America’s Working Families, subcommittee report, 106th Cong., 1st sess.
(Washington ); and U.S. Congress, House Committee on Education and the Workforce,
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Telework: The Impact on Workplace Policythst
in the United States, hearing, 106 Cong., 1 sess., Oct. 28, 1999. Unpublished. Available
on the Internet at [http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/106th/oi/oihearings.htm], visited
Dec. 17, 2001. See also: Christine Avery and Diane Zabel, The Flexible Workplace; A
Sourcebook of Information and Research (Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2000);
International City/County Management Association, Telecommuting Program, 1993,
available on the Internet at [http://www.icma.org/], visited Dec. 17, 2001; J. M. Martino,
Work-Life Initiatives in a Global Context, June 29, 1999, available on the Internet at
[http://www.conference-board.org/], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
20The City of Rockville, Maryland has developed a telecommuting policy, and Alexandria,
Virginia is considering legislation to encourage employees to work from home. Fairfax
County, Virginia government officials have set a goal to have 900 of the county’s 10,000
employees working at home at least one day a week by 2005. See Michael D. Shear,
“Telecommuting Hits Home as Way To Relieve Gridlock; Area Officials Vow To Move Idea
Along,” Washington Post (Loudoun Extra), Nov. 9, 2000, p. V4.
21See the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Web site at
[http://www.mwcog.org/commuter/ccindex.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
22Based on a telephone conversation with MWCOG staff on Nov. 6, 2001.
23Secretary Slater’s letter to the cabinet departments was noted at the First Annual
Washington Area Conference on Telework on Oct. 24, 2000. Shear, “Telecommuting Hits
Home,” p. V4.
systems. Various studies that have addressed these infrastructure and transit problems
are discussed below.
Condition of the Infrastructure. On March 8, 2001, the American Society
of Civil Engineers (ASCE)24 released its 2001 Report Card for America’s
Infrastructure and gave 12 infrastructure areas a cumulative grade of “D+.” In
making this judgment, ASCE stated:
One-third of the nation’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing
American drivers an estimated $5.8 billion a year. Road conditions contribute to
as many as 13,800 highway fatalities annually. Twenty-seven percent of
America’s urban freeways — which account for 61% of all miles driven — are
To remedy these deficiencies, “ASCE estimates a needed $1.3 trillion investment
over the next five years and calls for a renewed partnership between citizens, local,
state and federal governments, and the private sector.”25
Demands on the Transit System. ASCE also graded the transit system and
gave it a “C-.” According to ASCE:
Transit ridership has increased 15% since 1995 — faster than airline or highway
transportation. Capital spending must increase 41% just to maintain the system
in its present condition.
Citing an 11% increase from July 2000 to July 2001 in Washington transit
ridership, a Washington Post editorial stated that success has its price: “To
rehabilitate equipment, buy new cars, and expand the system to handle projected
ridership, Metro officials say they need $12.3 billion by 2025. They have
commitments from Maryland, Virginia and the District for $8.6 billion—leaving a26
shortfall of $3.7 billion.”
According to the American Public Transportation Association:
transit ridership in the [Washington Metro] region grew by 13.2% last year, four
times the national average. The numbers are a transit success story: Metro
ridership has grown roughly 8 percent for three years in a row; last year Metrobus
was the fastest-growing bus system in the country.... Transit needs are only part
of the larger transportation picture for the region, of course. Overall, the Council
of Governments has estimated that existing revenues fall nearly $1.7 billion a year
short of what’s needed for highway and transit growth, rehabilitation and
maintenance over the next 25 years. In Northern Virginia alone over the next two
24 Representing over 123,000 civil engineers worldwide, the nonprofit ASCE was
founded in 1852 and is America’s oldest national engineering society.
25See ASCE’s Web site for the full 2002 report card and March 8, 2001 press release,
available on the Internet at [http://www.asce.org/reportcard/index.cfm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
26Editorial, “Metro’s Reddest Line,” The Washington Post, Aug. 25, 2001, p. A18.
decades, planners have identified $30 billion worth of highway and transit needs,27
of which nearly $15 billion remains unfunded.
Up 9.5% from last year, ridership on the Washington Metro subway now ranks
second in the nation, behind that on New York’s subway system. July ridership
statistics for the Washington Metro averaged a daily 674,786 trips, the highest
number in Metro’s 25-year history. Such crowding is prompting Metro officials to
consider switching its two-by-two seats for the long benches of the New York
subway. The change in design would widen the aisle on the trains and accommodate
30 to 60 more people standing. Increasing the capacity of each rail car may obviate
the need for additional purchases of cars.28
Washington Metro is monitoring transit ridership in the aftermath of the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to determine if any changes in long-term plans
Traffic Congestion. In terms of the overall intensity and duration of traffic
congestion, Washington ranks third, just behind Los Angeles and San Francisco in
national “traffic misery.” A Texas Transportation Institute 1999 study found that in
the 68 urban areas studied, traffic cost $78 billion in lost time and wasted gas and an
average of an extra 36 hours per person stuck in traffic. According to the study,
morning and evening rush hour doubled from a combined three hours per weekday
in 1982 to almost six hours in 1999, with Washington local drivers spending “an
average of 46 hours a year delayed in traffic.” The region is “third in nation’s traffic
congestion, fourth in amount of extra time needed for a trip during rush hour and fifth29
in the average amount of time each person wastes in traffic jams.”
Views on Telework
To some, telework seems to be a natural progression of flexible workplace
features, including flexible work schedules and subsidies to encourage employees to
use public transportation. Various purposes or reasons are stated in support of
telework. Among those identified by GSA (OPM and the legislative branch identify
many of these as well) are the following:
Improvements in employee morale and effectiveness. [The rationale is that
telework saves time, thus contributing to a better balance between work and family
27Editorial, “Keeping Up With the Riders,” The Washington Post, April 19, 2001, p. A18.
28Lyndsey Layton, “Metro Considers a Divisive Stand,” The Washington Post, Aug. 25,
2001, p. A01
29Katherine Shaver, “Traffic Misery Slips — on Paper,” The Washington Post, May 8, 2001,
Reductions in transportation costs including car insurance, maintenance, and wear.
Accommodation of employees with short or long term health problems or family
responsibilities, such as problems associated with elder care and latch-key
Cost savings to the Government in regard to office space, sick leave absences, and30
Reduction in automobile-created air pollution and traffic congestion [and reduction
in stress caused by the latter].
Potential for increased productivity.
Improved work atmosphere due to fewer co-worker non-business interruptions.31
Those who favor telework believe that it adds a dimension of appeal to federal
service. Recruiting, hiring, and training new staff are costly in terms of both dollars
and staff time devoted to those efforts (which in turn affect the organization’s other
work). Retaining skilled staff (and their institutional memory) may be considered a
benefit. The General Accounting Office (GAO) placed “strategic human capital
management” on its January 2001 list of high risk concerns in the federal government.
The Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring,
and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Government Affairs, in a December
2000 report on management of the federal government’s human capital, recommended
that comprehensive workforce planning be made mandatory across the executive
branch. The subcommittee conducted a hearing on February 1, 2001 at which the
Comptroller General testified about the designation of human capital management as
a high risk area.32
Specific examples of financial savings associated with telework have been
identified. By implementing a telecommuting program in 1995 for railroad safety
inspectors in 22 field offices, the Federal Railroad Administration saved approximately
$251,929 by closing 18 field offices and reducing office space in nine others through
30For an analysis of telecommuting as an energy conservation option, see CRS Report 90-524,
Telecommuting: A National Option For Conserving Oil, by Fred Sissine.
31U.S. General Services Administration, Evaluation and Innovative Workplaces Division,
Office of Real Property, Office of Governmentwide Policy, Implementation Manual, Section
IV: Questions and Answers (Question 6). Printed from the Internet at [http://policyworks.
gov/org/main/mp/library/policydocs/manual6.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001. Telework may also
facilitate the employment of persons who are disabled. See Wendell H. Joice, “Home Based
Employment: A Consideration for Public Personnel Management,” Public Personnel
Management, vol. 20, no. 1, 1991, pp. 49-60.
32See U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight
of Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia, Report to the
President: The Crisis in Human Capital; Report Prepared by Senator George V. Voinovich,thnd
Chairman, subcommittee report, 106 Cong., 2 sess. (Washington: 2000), p. 46. (Hereafter
cited as The Crisis in Human Capital.)
FY1998.33 GSA provided a preliminary assessment of four telecenters in 1995, which
found that “telecommuters save an estimated 6,000 miles of travel annually by using
the centers one or two days a week. The corresponding time savings for a34
telecommuter is some 160 hours a year and $500 a year in transportation costs.”
Other potential savings that could accrue from telework programs can also be
identified. Employees who are teleworking on those days which are designated as
liberal or unscheduled leave could continue to work, thereby reducing the cost to the
government.35 Telework benefits to employees can translate into savings in the cost
of car maintenance, repairs, and gas.36
Federal managers are also sensitive to and considerate of the fears of employees
about working in tall, high-profile federal buildings, particularly those located in the
nation’s Capitol. A distracted and anxious workforce could adversely impact
productivity. These managers, as well as some employees, believe that telework, even
on a limited basis, could help to alleviate or ameliorate employee anxieties, and
contribute to retaining staff.37
Telework in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon prompted OPM and GSA to remind
agencies that telework could assist their employees in recovering from the traumatic
events. The agencies jointly stated that:
During these difficult times, Federal employees in the DC Metropolitan and New
York City areas, as well as in other impacted parts of our country, are finding it
increasingly time-consuming to get to work due to road closings and increased
security precautions. OPM encourages Federal agencies and managers to make
33Evolution of Telework, p. 34.
34U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Successful Telecommuting Programs in the Public and
Private Sectors; A Report to Congress (Washington: U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 1997),
35OPM estimated that a one-day closure in the Washington, DC Primary Metropolitan
Statistical Area costs $68.3 million dollars and in the entire executive branch costs $339.1
million dollars, as of November 2000. Three recent closures of federal government offices
in the Washington, DC area were Jan. 8 through 10 and Jan. 12, 1996 because of snow; Jan.
because of the protests surrounding the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
annual meetings. (U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Congressional Relations.
Data sent to CRS by facsimile Nov. 29, 2000.) The cost of closing Senate and House offices
because of inclement weather or budget shutdown, or for other reasons, cannot be quantified,
because each office acts as its own employing office and determines the policy for staff.
36The MWCOG provides a calculator to estimate monthly or annual costs of commuting on
its telework Web site at [http://www.mwcog.org/commuter/costcommute.htm], visited Dec.
17, 2001. Subtracting telework days from these estimates illustrates the possible savings to
37Based on conversation with congressional staff and committees, and news reports including
Eliza Newlin Carney, “When Working on the Hill is Hazardous,” National Journal, Oct. 27,
optimum use of personnel flexibilities such as telework and alternative work
schedules to help relieve traffic congestion in these areas. Furthermore, Telework
may be appropriate for employees who have experienced traumatic workplace
events such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001. In addition to relieving
traffic congestion which can reduce commuting time, telework can assist
employees who have been displaced because their federal building has been
destroyed. Agencies should work with local Federal Executive Boards and the
General Services Administration in these areas to assist in locating alternative
Telework arrangements must be sensitive to the employee’s needs for recovery.
Teleworking can be helpful for the employee recovering from trauma if it shortens
a long, stressful commute and gives the employee more time with loved ones. On
the other hand, if not correctly designed, the telework arrangement has the
potential for making it even more difficult for an employee to recover from trauma.
Federal Employee Assistance Programs have staff who understand these issues and38
can advise managers who are making decisions about telework.
Advocates of telework believe that it would allow an organization’s or agency’s
workforce to be dispersed and decentralized so that essential functions could be
continued in emergencies. Agencies might develop telework programs that include
rotating a certain number of employees between primary and off-site locations.
During a crisis, work could continue at the off-site locations. This feature of a
telework program could be used as a trial period for certain employees or as part of
a pilot program at those agencies that have thus far been skeptical about the merits
or feasibility of telework. Backup files, electronic or otherwise, could be stored at
space leased by agencies at other locations, thereby providing for protection of those
files during emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Some managers who might have been skeptical about the merits of telework
prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the anthrax threat might now
consider it as an important component of contingency planning. Prior to these events,
some managers might have perceived telework primarily as a benefit for the employee.
A shift in that perception could occur as managers reassess and refine their emergency
preparedness and disaster recovery plans in preparation for any future comprehensive
emergency evacuation or shutdown of buildings or operations, either temporarily or
for a longer period of time.
Congress, the President and Vice President, executive branch agencies, and the
Supreme Court provide examples of off-site work in the aftermath of September 11.
Congress. With the discovery of traces of anthrax in the Hart Senate Office
Building on October 17, 2001 and the subsequent sweep of all the buildings within the
Capitol complex to test for anthrax contamination, the telework option became
important to Members and staff of the House and Senate seeking to continue the
legislative work of Congress and the operations of the government.
38U.S. General Services Administration and Office of Personnel Management, “Telework Can
Assist in the Recovery Needs of Federal Employees,” available on the Internet at
[http://www.telework.gov/recovery.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
President and Vice President. Even before the September 11 attacks,
President George W. Bush worked wherever he was, including aboard Air Force One.
In the hours immediately following the attacks, the President continued to monitor
events and coordinate the nation’s responses on Air Force One.39 Since September
11, as a security precaution, Vice President Richard Cheney has worked periodically
at undisclosed locations away from the Old Executive Office Building and his offices40
in the Capitol, conducting much of his work by telephone and videoconferencing.
Executive Branch Agencies. Government Executive reported that at the
time of the September 11 attacks, “More than 2,800 employees worked in offices
leased by the General Services Administration in Buildings 6 and 7 at the World Trade
Center complex.” Another 25,000 federal employees who worked nearby were forced
to evacuate their offices in buildings at 26 Federal Plaza, 290 Broadway, 40 Centre
Street, and 500 Pearl Street. In the aftermath, GSA officials quickly began to locate
alternative office space for the displaced federal employees41 and “notified its
Burlington, VT supply depot to go on a 24-hour work schedule to meet agencies’
needs for furniture [and] office supplies”; and GSA’s “Federal Technology Service
made 500 computers available to agencies within two days of the attacks.”42
Supreme Court. The Supreme Court building was closed on October 26,
2001 after anthrax traces were discovered at its off-site mail facility and in the Court’s
own mail room. The Court continued its work by convening at a federal courthouse
a few blocks away at the foot of Capitol Hill. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
opened the proceedings by stating that “[t]his is the first time this court has met
outside our building since it opened in 1935.”43 The Supreme Court Building
reopened on November 5, 2001.
39A National Geographic special that aired in July 2001 on the Public Broadcasting Service
characterized Air Force One as the “flying Oval Office” and stated that the airplane used by
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to travel to Casablanca in 1943, the Dixie Clipper,
“helped to transform the American Presidency into a global office.” See Public Broadcasting
Service, National Geographic Special, “Air Force One,” printed from the Internet at
[http://www.pbs.org/whatson/press/jul01/ng_airforce.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
40Edwin Chen, “Cheney Mostly Out of Sight, But Still Involved,” The Los Angeles Times,
Oct. 12, 2001, p. A3.
41GSA and OPM issued joint guidance on finding alternative office space for displaced federal
employees in New York City and Washington, DC. See U.S. General Services Administration
and Office of Personnel Management, “Relocation Site Information for New York City
Federal Employees Impacted by Loss of Offices,” available on the Internet at
[http://www.telework.gov/relocation.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
42Tanya N. Ballard, “Horror, Then a Helping Hand,” Government Executive, vol. 33, Oct.
43Frank J. Murray, “Court Lets Virginia Law Stand From New Location,” The Washington
Times, Oct. 30, 2001, pp. A1, A12.
Among the concerns of managers thinking of establishing telework programs and
the considerations of employees thinking of participating in telework programs are the
Tasks and Positions. Certain tasks may be better suited to telework than
others. Among those mentioned by GSA and OPM are general planning; writing; data
analysis; reviewing files; telephone-intensive tasks (information research, setting up
meetings); and computer-oriented tasks (programming, data entry, word processing).
Additionally, telework may be appropriate particularly for completing episodic work
or projects without interruptions. Typically eligible for telework are jobs characterized
by work that: (1) is unclassified and does not require a security clearance; can be
performed off-site; lends itself to easy measurement of its products and progress; (2)
requires tools that are easily portable; (3) can be performed with the use of a
telephone, computer, and/or facsimile machine; and (4) can be performed by an
individual, rather than a group.44
Tasks that may not be suited for telework include those involving: (1) extensive
face-to-face interaction with the supervisor or other employees, or the public; (2)
supervision of other employees; (3) research that requires access to materials not
accessible electronically, or that cannot be removed from the main office site; and (4)
the use of equipment that cannot be provided by the employing office. In the
executive and legislative branches, telework may not be practical for certain staff
whose positions require close and frequent interaction with Members of Congress,
high government officials, or other staff; or responsiveness to constituent inquiries
(including office visits and telephone calls).
Equity and Morale. While some cite morale and productivity as benefits of
telework, making some employees eligible for participation and others ineligible may
raise fairness issues and have an opposite effect on employees who remain at work in
the central office site.
Productivity. If an employee’s productivity declines and if the evaluation so
indicates, the employer and employee would need to re-evaluate the terms of the
telework agreement, or even terminate it. Reserved for the manager or supervisor is
the right to terminate telework agreements for any reason and at any time. Some
employees who were initially motivated to participate in telecommuting may decide
after a period of time that telework is unsuitable for their particular circumstances.
Others may find that they prefer a clear delineation between work and home, or that
the alternative work location does not provide an environment conducive to greater
productivity. Still others may conclude that there is no substitute for being at the
central worksite full time, interacting face-to-face with colleagues, and accessing
work materials that are digitally inaccessible.
44U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Congressional Relations. Statement sent
to CRS by facsimile Nov. 29, 2000.
Staff Work Style and Turnover. In some congressional offices and
committees, being available almost “24-7" (the concept of all-day, every-day work
style) may be expected for certain positions and during specific legislative and
appropriations cycles. Similar availability may be required during certain periods,
such as annual preparation of the budget, in the executive branch.45 Some believe that
flexible work arrangements (including telework) during other periods, for particular
offices, may help retain staff in both the executive and legislative branches.
Staff turnover on Capitol Hill traditionally has been high, particularly in entry
positions. In the view of many, while recruiting congressional staff is not a problem,
retaining them is. According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF)46
1999 Senate Staff Employment Study, of the offices that responded, nearly 50% of
Senate staff had less than one year of experience in their current position, including
43% of communication directors, 46% of legislative assistants, 79% of legislative
correspondents, 38% of legislative directors, and 30% of chiefs of staff.47 Results of
the CMF 2000 House Staff Employment Study also indicated high turnover, with
nearly two-thirds of respondents having less than two years experience in their current
position, including 39% of chiefs of staff, 64% of legislative directors, and 74% of
Impact on Organizational Culture. The essence of an organization is
embodied in its unique culture. Methods that enable teleworking employees to stay
connected to the cultures of their organizations are thought to be important because
the procedures for fulfilling agency missions are developed and communicated by
those cultures. The scope and implementation of a telework program might affect
how the culture is transmitted throughout the organization and the way in which
managers and staff interact and work.
Twice, in 1994 and 1996, presidential memorandums were issued that affirmed
flexible work arrangements and directed OPM and GSA to assist executive agencies
in implementing family-friendly work arrangements, including telecommuting. In
implementing the directives, both agencies established similar definitions for telework,
45An examination of the telework policies indicates that employees who are teleworking would
come into the central office as needed.
46The Congressional Management Foundation, established in 1977 by former congressional
staff to help improve congressional office management practices, is a non-profit, non-partisan
organization. The studies of the Senate and House mentioned apply only to congressional staff
in personal offices, and not leadership or committee staff.
47Sheree L. Beverly, 1999 Senate Staff Employment Study (Washington: Congressional
Management Foundation, 1999) p. 103. This study was based on 54 Senate offices
responding to the CMF questionnaire.
48Sheree L. Beverly, 2000 House Staff Employment Study (Washington: Congressional
Management Foundation, 2000), p. 79. This study was based on 183 House offices
responding to the CMF questionnaire.
which emphasized that the term connotes working away from the principal (or
traditional) office or at “any location other than an employee’s normal duty station.”
According to GSA, “modern technological advances have made it easier to work
anytime, anywhere, and anyplace.” “To be considered telecommuting, [however] the
work done must be in paid status.... [W]orking at home extra hours for which the
employee is not paid is not telecommuting.”49
Policies on telework are evolving. Both GSA and OPM have published general
policies and guidance on telework programs. These enunciate some common
principles underlying such programs and address issues that an agency or employee
must consider before establishing or participating in a program. Although the
legislative branch has no corresponding entities, a comparison of the policies and
guidance for this branch (where telework programs exist) indicate that they are quite
similar to those of the executive branch.50
Principles underlying telework programs as enunciated by GSA and OPM can
be grouped into three categories, stated below.
!Telecommuting is a management decision and option, not an employee right
!Participation is voluntary and may be terminated by either the employee or the
supervisor or manager.
!A written telecommuting agreement must be signed by the employee and
supervisor or manager.
!Telecommuting does not change the terms and conditions of employment,
including salary and benefits.
!Responsibilities of employees are specifically defined.
!Work schedule (days or hours) and location of the alternative work site are
49U.S. General Services Administration, Implementation Manual for Telecommuting/
Telework, available on the Internet at [http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mp/library/policydocs/
mworkplce.htm]; U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Telework/Telecommuting, available
on the Internet at [http://www.opm.gov/wrkfam/telecomm/telecomm.htm], both Web sites
visited Dec. 17, 2001. GSA’s guidance is more detailed than OPM’s, and the latter’s Web
site refers readers to GSA.
50Sample telework agreements were examined to reach this conclusion.
!Duties and tasks performed must be conducive to working in another
environment that will optimize efficiency and performance.
!Some agencies may prohibit the care of dependents during scheduled
!The alternative worksite, generally the responsibility of the employee, should
be a clean, safe area which may be subject to inspection by the employing51
!Appropriate office equipment and supplies, and service and maintenance of
government-owned equipment, may be provided and are to be used for official
!Specifically authorized telecommuting expenses may be reimbursable
(telephone and telecommunications charges are generally reimbursable in
accordance with regulations).
!Workman’s compensation rules generally apply.
!Safeguards for the security of classified and sensitive information may apply
and be spelled out in written agreements.
!Files, records, and documents created using government-owned equipment are
the property of the government.
!Work performance must not be diminished as a result of telecommuting, and
performance appraisals are conducted in the same manner as if the work
occurred at the central office.
!Participating employees must be able to work independently and require
!In some cases, eligibility may require attainment of a certain performance
OPM and GSA are posting policies and agreements on telework from executive53
branch agencies on their joint Internet Web site.
51See CRS Report RS20463, Application of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
to Teleworkers, by Kimberly D. Jones.
52See footnote 49.
53The joint Web site is available on the Internet at [http://www.telework.gov/agencies.htm],
Section 359 of the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act for
FY2001, which became P.L. 106-346 on October 23, 2000, directs executive agencies
to establish policies under which eligible employees “may participate in telecommuting
to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance.” OPM
issued guidance to the agencies on the law’s provisions on January 29, 2001 and
February 9, 2001. According to OPM:
The purpose of the law is to require that each agency take a fresh look at the
barriers that currently inhibit the use of this flexibility, act to remove them and
increase actual participation. The law recognizes that not all positions are
appropriate for telecommuting; therefore, each agency must identify positions that
are appropriate in a manner that focuses on broad objective criteria. Once an
agency has established eligibility criteria, subject to any applicable agency policies
or bargaining obligations, employees who meet them and want to participate must54
be allowed that opportunity if they are satisfactory performers.
The guidance included a form on which the agencies were to report to OPM, by
April 2, 2001, on the establishment of their telecommuting policies, including the
percentage of their workforce covered by and the basic elements of the policy.
By April 23, 2001, the Director of OPM had to ensure “that the requirements of
the section are applied to 25 percent of the Federal workforce [eligible to participate],
and to an additional 25 percent of such workforce each year thereafter.”55 The
visited Dec. 17, 2001. Also see The PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business
of Government, Managing Telecommuting in the Federal Government: An Interim Report,
by Gina Vega and Louis Brennan, June 2000. (Hereafter cited as Managing Telecommuting.)
54U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments
and Agencies, Establishing Telecommuting Policies, Jan. 29, 2001 and Feb. 9, 2001. Sent
to CRS by the Family-Friendly Workplace Advocacy Office at OPM by facsimile Feb. 15,
55P.L. 106-346, Oct. 23, 2000, 114 Stat. 1356. In a Feb. 13, 2001 news release,
Representative Frank Wolf stated the intent of the provision: “The program is to be phased
in over the next four years, giving 25 percent of those eligible to telecommute the option of
starting this year.” The news release is available on the Internet at [http://www.house.gov/
wolf/2001213Telecommute.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001. Another provision on telework is
included under the Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary account in P.L. 106-
346 as well. The Secretary of Transportation is directed to “conduct an assessment of the
existing practices and infrastructure involved with telework efforts in the greater New York
metropolitan area and determine if a telework program, supported by the federal government,
could provide significant incentives for increasing the use of telework, thereby reducing
vehicle miles traveled and improving air quality.” The assessment is to identify
representatives from local government, environmental organizations, and transportation
provision was added to the appropriations bill by the conference committee which
explained the requirement in its report accompanying the bill:
Within one year, the Office of Personnel Management shall evaluate the
effectiveness of the program and report to Congress. Each agency participating
in the program shall develop criteria to be used in implementing such a policy and
ensure that managerial, logistical, organizational, or other barriers to full
implementation and successful functioning of the policy are removed. Each
agency should also provide for adequate administrative, human resources,
technical, and logistical support for carrying out the policy. Telecommuting refers
to any arrangement in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned
duties at home or other work sites geographically convenient to the residence of the
employee. Eligible employees mean any satisfactorily performing employee of the
agency whose job may typically be performed at least one day per week [at an56
OPM Report to Congress. OPM reported to Congress on the status of
telework in the federal government in an interim report57 published in June 2001 and
in a final report58 published in January 2002. OPM found that, as of October 1, 2001,
74,487, or 4.2%, of federal workers teleworked. Sixty-four agencies with a total
workforce of 1,765,967 employees responded to OPM’s survey on telework. At the
National Credit Union Administration, 74% of the workforce teleworks. More than
30% of the workforce teleworks at three agencies — OPM (38.5%), the National
Endowment for the Arts (36.5%), and the Farm Credit Administration (31.9%). At
least 20% of the workforce teleworks in nine agencies. One department, the
Department of Education, has 22.1% of its workforce teleworking. The other eight
agencies are the Consumer Product Safety Commission (29.2%), the National
Endowment for the Humanities (29.1%), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(23.9%), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (22.5%), the Merit Systems
Protection Board (22.3%), the Environmental Protection Agency (21.6%), the
Federal Communications Commission (21.2%), and the Equal Employment59
Opportunity Commission (20.8%).
Among agencies responding to the OPM survey that have at least 3,000
employees, the Department of Veterans Affairs (0.4%) and the Department of State
(0.9%) have the lowest percentages of teleworkers. Five other agencies have less
than 2% of employees teleworking. These agencies are the Department of Agriculture
(1.7%), the Department of Defense (1.6%), the Federal Emergency Management
agencies to serve as “a New York City design team for implementing a telework program.”
The Secretary must report his or her findings to Congress within six months. Funding in the
amount of $300,000 is provided to carry out these activities. See H.Rept. 106-940, p. 66.
56H.Rept. 106-940, p. 151.
57U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Interim Report on Telework in the Federal
Government, June 2001.
58U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Report to the Congress; The Status of Telework in
the Federal Government, Jan. 2002.
59Ibid., pp. 6-7.
Agency (1.6%), the Department of Justice (1.2%), and the National Archives and
Records Administration (1.2%).60
House Committee on Appropriations. The committee report
accompanying the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and
related agencies appropriations bill for FY2002, H.R. 2500, expressed a commitment
to telework in the federal government. It also expressed the expectation that the
departments, the judiciary, and the related agencies funded by the bill would fully
comply with the requirements of section 359 of P.L. 106-346.61
Telework Issues Working Group. In November 2000, GSA and OPM
formed a working group, which currently comprises representatives from 17 cabinet
and independent executive agencies, to evaluate issues related to telework and to
determine what further guidance or legislation, if any, might be recommended. (The
departments and many independent executive agencies have had telework62
coordinators in place for some time.) The working group anticipates that the Chief
Information Officers will be active participants in its discussions, especially those on
computers and other equipment. An initial meeting of the group on November 7,
covering nine areas (and 18 pages). Some of the issues being reviewed, categorized
by area, are quoted below.
Legal/Procurement: Are existing telework guidelines up-to-date and accurate
regarding liability laws?
Telecommunications: [A]ddress the costs of maintaining two work stations for
employees who telecommute. Should the agency be responsible for paying for
computer equipment, job related internet costs [and the like].
Computers and Other Equipment: To insure that Government work is not
compromised as a result of viruses or inadequate safeguards that an employee may
have on a personal computer at home, as funding is available, agencies should be
urged to provide appropriate equipment and software for teleworkers [suggested64
by a Department of Energy representative on the working group].
Taxes: If [an agency] establish[es] alternative officing and the employee no longer
has full use of the workstation at the main worksite, does that mean the worker can
write off [for tax purposes] use of [the] home office?
60Ibid., p. 7.
61U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Departments of Commerce, Justice,
and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, Fiscal Year 2002, report
to accompany H.R. 2500, 107th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 107-139 (Washington: GPO, 2001),
p. 7. The bill became P.L. 107-77 on Nov. 28, 2001.
62A listing of the coordinators is available on the Internet at [http://policyworks.gov/
org/main/mp/library/policydocs/tcoords.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
63“Telework Related Policy Issues.” Internal working document sent to CRS by a member of
the working group by e-mail Nov. 28, 2000.
64Ibid., p. 4.
Worksite Health/Safety: Although self-certification forms, [certifying that health
and safety requirements are met], are readily available from both GSA and OPM,
it is not clear ... how and under what conditions they are to be used.
Human Resources Management: [Such issues as] (1) Should other employees
have access to a teleworker’s main worksite station when [it] is not in use? (2)
Need [for] a governmentwide policy that excludes employees where feasible, from
standard leave and hours of duty regulations. (The idea of [working] “anytime –
anywhere”). (3) Need [for a] standard definition of telework: temporary disability,
permanent disability, project work [and so forth and] [c]larification that telework
covers any alternate worksite and not just home, telecenters [and so forth].
Continuation of Operations (COOP): Need clarification of policies on telework
and [continuing agency operations].
Pay: [Such issues as] (1) Locality pay implications and guidance? (2) Manager
has four long distance telework situations where he wants to pay competitive
salary rates, travel costs from [the] home office to [the] traditional office, and not
[have that] impact upon competitive area status during possible RIFs [reduction
in force]. For example [the] regular office [is] in state A [and the] home office [is]
in state B. Wants to pay travel to state A.
General, Training, Support: Need to clarify [the] roles of OPM and GSA in
Telework .... It would be less confusing to agencies if OPM and GSA would
clarify their respective roles in establishing Federal telecommuting policy and
initiatives ... [and set up] a “one-stop” web site for telecommuting [suggested by
a Department of Commerce representative on the working group]. Greater
collaboration among Departments/Agencies would create the synergy needed to
create first-class programs [suggested by a Department of Education65
representative on the working group].
International Telework. Work abroad may also apply telework, as this
example provided by OPM illustrates:
In 1995, one of the functional bureaus at the Department of State proposed that
a civil service employee be permitted to perform her Washington-based job duties
from overseas. The employee was married to a foreign service officer who was
being posted in Ankara, Turkey. The bureau and the employee felt that a telework
arrangement would be ideal and would meet the needs of both the agency and the
employee. The department determined that the employee’s duties in the financial
bureau could be performed and monitored from the overseas location through the
use of technology. A major benefit for the employee was that she did not have to
leave her job and experience a break in her Federal service. The department was
very interested in keeping this employee on board, given her excellent record, her
extensive knowledge and superb skills. It further determined that she might be able
to conduct site reviews in some European cities, thereby saving the department the
more expensive travel costs of sending other employees from the U.S. According
to the employee, the arrangement worked out very well, [and she] report[ed] that
her production increased dramatically. While in Ankara, she occupied an office
at the embassy. Issues of diplomatic immunity, reporting requirements, use of
65Ibid., pp. 11-12.
technology, and office space and location were some of the details addressed by66
a team that worked to implement this arrangement.
Telecenters. More than 400 federal employees are using telecenters, satellite
offices shared by agencies, as their alternative worksites, as of October 1, 2001.67 The
two largest users of the telecenters are the Department of Defense and GSA.
Telecenters are located in the states of Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio, and in
the Washington, DC metropolitan area.68 Among the sites in the DC area are
telecenters located in the District of Columbia; in Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown,
Laurel, Prince Frederick, Silver Spring, and Waldorf, Maryland; in Fairfax,
Fredericksburg, Herndon, Manassas, Stafford, Sterling, Winchester, and Woodbridge,
Virginia; and in Ranson, West Virginia.69 Monthly fees charged to an agency to lease
an individual workstation vary by telecenter.70 According to GSA: “Agencies that use
telecenters must lease the telecenter workstations used by their teleworkers and,
therefore, experience a double overhead cost for each teleworker using a telecenter
(overhead for existing main worksite workstation plus lease cost for use of telecenter
workstation). This, clearly, is not an efficient use of funds and is a primary deterrent71
to the development of telecenters.”
In its report accompanying the Treasury, Postal Service, and General
Government Appropriations Bill for FY2002, H.R. 2590, the House Committee on
Appropriations discussed the use of the GSA telecenters. According to the
committee, the telecenters “are operating at about 50 percent of their full capacity and
GSA is subsidizing operating costs not covered by user fees.” The report directed
GSA “to increase its marketing of the telecenters and to develop a business case for
a pilot project that would allow a 60-day free trial period for certain federal
employees to use the telecenters.” Federal employees eligible to participate would be
those employees who are eligible for telework but do not currently use telecenters.
Additionally, the employees’ agencies would have to “have sufficient funds to cover
the user fees if the employee elects to continue using the telecenter after the trial
66U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Congressional Relations, statement sent to
CRS by facsimile Nov. 29, 2000.
67Data provided to CRS by GSA by telephone Nov. 6, 2001. For information on the history
of telecenters, see Evolution of Telework, pp. 24-31.
68Interagency Telecenter Listing, available on the Internet at [http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/
Dec. 17, 2001.
69Listed on the Internet at [http://www.wmtc.org/index.mv], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
70For an example of the fees, see: “Federal Interagency Telecommuting Centers, FY2001
Pricing Structure and Billing Procedures,” available on the Internet at [http://www.gsa.gov/
visited Dec. 17, 2001.
71U.S. General Services Administration, “Federal Telework Topics,” p. 17, available on the
Internet at [http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mp/library/policydocs/mworkplce.htm], visited
Dec. 17, 2001. (Choose Telework Topics for Federal Employees.)
period.”72 GSA would be required to submit the business case to the committee
within 60 days of the act’s enactment. If warranted, the pilot program would be
GSA is offering federal agencies the opportunity to have their employees work
at one of the 15 metropolitan Washington, DC telecenters for 60 days on a trial basis
without having to pay the fee that normally accompanies such use. Stephen A. Perry,
GSA administrator, announced the initiative in a March 6, 2002 letter to heads of
departments and independent agencies. The 60-day period runs from March 6
through June 30, 2002. According to Mr. Perry, telecenters “may provide agencies
with an effective means for distributing their workforces to enhance homeland73
security and continue government operations during emergency situations.” Federal
employees working in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are eligible to
use the telecenters (subject to the policies of their respective agencies).74
The House Committee on Appropriations report also directed GSA:
to prepare and deliver to the Committee 90 days after enactment of this Act a
report evaluating the costs (actual costs on a per-worker basis based on historical
data) of providing telecenters in comparison to the costs of establishing and
operating a workplace within a telecommuter’s home, and the other relative merits
of each approach.
The report further directed GSA:
to evaluate the needs and opportunities for establishing a telecenter to serve the
Route 355/I-270 corridor and a telecenter to serve the Georgia/New Hampshire
Avenue corridor in Montgomery County, Maryland, to include this evaluation in
the cost evaluation report, and to proceed with establishing both or either of these75
centers if warranted.
The Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,
1999, P.L. 105-277, provided that “For fiscal year 1999 and each fiscal year
thereafter, of the funds made available to each Executive agency for salaries and
expenses, at a minimum $50,000 shall be available only for the necessary expenses of
the Executive agency to carry out a flexiplace work telecommuting program.” The
law defined the term “flexiplace work telecommuting program” as “a program under
which employees of an Executive agency are permitted to perform all or a portion of
72U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Treasury, Postal Service, and General
Government Appropriations Bill, 2002, report to accompany H.R. 2590, 107th Cong., 1st
sess., H.Rept. 107-152 (Washington: GPO, 2001), p. 71. (Hereafter referred to as H. Rept.
73The letter is available on the Internet at [http://www.telework.gov/LtrAgcyHeads.htm],
visited April 2, 2002. For more information on the initiative see [http://www.telework.gov
74Telephone conversation with GSA National Capital Region staff on April 2, 2002.
75H.Rept. 107-152, p. 71.
their duties at a flexiplace work telecommuting center.”76 Telephone conversations
with several executive agencies indicate that no procedure is in place to track the
implementation of this provision.
The FY2002 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations
Bill (P.L. 107-67) includes a provision at section 638 that requires executive agencies
covered by P.L. 105-277 to submit a report to OPM within 60 days after the close of
FY2001 on their efforts to implement the law. OPM in turn must prepare a report
summarizing that information for the House Committee on Appropriations within 90
days after the close of FY2001.77 OPM has requested reports from the agencies and
is preparing its report to Congress.
The accessibility of telecenters could be enhanced by allowing teleworkers who
are pre-registered to use the centers on other than a monthly or an annual basis. A
portion of a center might be reserved for teleworkers who are walk-ins and who may
have computers at home but may occasionally need to print or specially produce
documents or use equipment at the center when their own equipment breaks down.
Such walk-ins could use the centers on a hourly basis or during a reserved time
To highlight support for telework and the role that telecenters can play in
facilitating telework, several Members of Congress have visited telecenters. Most
recently, on January 25, 2002, Representatives Steny Hoyer and Albert Wynn toured
the Bowie, Maryland Telecommuting Center with OPM Director Kay Coles James.
While there, they talked with federal employees who are using the telecenter and
discussed telecommuting in general. On January 8, 2002, Representative Shelley
Moore Capito promoted telework by visiting the Jefferson County, West Virginia
Telecenter. During her visit, she conducted official business and met with local
76P.L. 105-277, Oct. 21, 1998, 40 U.S.C. 490 note, 112 Stat. 2681-522 - 2681-523. The law
covered these departments and agencies: Depts. of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice,
Interior, Labor, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban
Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, and Veterans’ Affairs; and General
Services Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration,
Social Security Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Postal Service.
77U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, 2001, Making Appropriations for the Treasury
Department, the United States Postal Service, the Executive Office of the President, and
Certain Independent Agencies, For the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2002, and Forth
Other Purposes, conference report to accompany H.R. 2590, H.Rept. 107-253, 107 Cong.,st
1 sess. (Washington: GPO, 2001), p. 41. The House of Representatives agreed to the
conference report on a 339-85 vote (Roll No. 413) on Oct. 31, 2001, and the Senate agreed
to it on an 83-15 vote (Roll No. 321) the next day. President George W. Bush signed H.R.
78“Hoyer, OPM Director Try Telecommuting,” Jan. 25, 2002. Available on the Internet at
[http://www.house.gov/hoyer/20020125.htm], visited April 2, 2002. “Capito Continues to
Promote Telecommuting, Jan. 8, 2002. Available on the Internet at [http://www.house.gov/
apps/list/press/wv02_capito/pr010802telecentr.htm], visited April 2, 2002.
Studies. Several studies on telework have been conducted by the General
Accounting Office (GAO), OPM, GSA, and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment
for the Business of Government. Additionally, MSPB and the Senate Governmental
Affairs Committee considered telework as part of their broader reports. Evaluations
have focused on the implementation of telework programs, best practices for
telework, federal employee views, and the benefits of telework.
Implementation of Telework Programs. The General Accounting Office
published the results of an evaluation of flexiplace in July 1997, which included these
Agency officials said that most employees using flexiplace were in professional
occupations. They told us that the staff members most frequently using flexiplace
were employed as engineers and engineering technicians, attorneys and paralegals,
program and management analysts, computer personnel, investigators, and
Agency officials and union representatives told us that management resistance was
the largest barrier to implementing flexiplace programs. They explained that some
managers and supervisors resisted allowing staff to participate in flexiplace
because they did not believe that employees were working unless they could see
[A] lack of adequate equipment was identified as a barrier by 12 of the 28 agency
officials and 4 of the 9 union representatives we interviewed .... Five of the 28
agency officials and 1 of the 9 union representatives believed that the nature of the
job was a barrier to implementing flexiplace .... Five of the agency officials and
one of the union representatives we interviewed said that the handling of sensitive
data was a barrier.
Agency officials reported few operational difficulties as a result of flexiplace
arrangements. Although agency officials told us that some managers initially
feared participants would abuse flexiplace arrangements, these officials reported79
few instances of abuse.
At the request of Congress, OPM reviewed family-friendly workplace
arrangements in the federal government in August 1998. Telecommuting was one of
the programs about which agencies were asked to provide feedback. Data provided
to OPM showed that 73% of the agencies reported that they had implemented
telecommuting programs, but just 0.5% of federal employees were participating in
such programs. The agencies reported to OPM that the top three reasons for not
implementing telecommuting were that it “may cause customer complaints about
availability; may cause difficulties in ensuring office coverage; and may cause
problems scheduling meetings.” According to OPM: “Several focus group
participants stated that their offices do not permit telecommuting, even if their
agencies had implemented the program. Focus group feedback indicated there are
several barriers to implementing telecommuting programs: lack of resources, lack of
79U.S. General Accounting Office, Federal Workforce: Agencies’ Policies and Views on
Flexiplace in the Federal Government, GAO Report GGD-97-116 (Washington: July 1997),
trust between supervisors and employees, time consuming paperwork necessary to
track employee hours, difficulty in assessing employee performance, and security
In July 2001, GAO published the text of a briefing that was conducted for
Representative Dick Armey “on potential tax, regulatory, and liability barriers that
employers face when they establish telecommuting programs for their employees.”
In seeking to explore the potential barriers faced by private industry employers, GAO,
among other activities, “interviewed representatives from two organizations that
promote telecommuting programs, two industry trade organizations that represent
employers who have telecommuting programs, four employers with telecommuting
programs in place, several union officials, and an attorney from a law firm that
provides assistance to employers who may want to establish telecommuting
programs.” GAO estimated that 16.5 million employees telecommute at least once a
month and 9.3 million employees telecommute at least once a week. According to
many telecommuting proponents believe that significant obstacles to increased use
of telecommuting involve internal management concerns related to (1) assessing
whether the employer has the types of positions and employees suitable for a
telecommuting program, (2) maintaining security over sensitive company data
while monitoring the actions of remote workers, and (3) ensuring that81
telecommuting activities do not adversely affect profits.
Furthermore, GAO identified “individual state tax laws that could expose
employers and employees to additional state taxes, and the applicability of federal
workplace health and safety laws and regulations to telecommuters’ home offices” as
other potential barriers to telecommuting. Because several of these laws and
regulations predate “the move toward the more technological and information-based
economy in which telecommuting has developed,” GAO observed that “their82
application to telecommuting is evolving and is somewhat unclear at this time.”
Best Practices for Telework. A June 2000 study published by the
PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government concluded that
“best practices in teleworking have yet to manifest themselves” and their development
will be ongoing and incremental. The authors found that such practices would be
“optimized by the happy confluence of work inherently suited to flexiplace; workers
suited to independent work; and trusting, supportive, and unintrusive managers.”83
In May 2001, OPM’s Philadelphia regional office released a special study on
successful applications of telework. The report identified the common themes and
80U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Workforce Relations, A Review of Federal
Family-Friendly Workplace Arrangements (Washington: Aug. 1998), pp. 8-9, 13.
81U.S. General Accounting Office, Telecommuting; Overview of Potential Barriers Facing
Employers, GAO Report GAO-01-926 (Washington: July 2001), p. 1.
82Ibid., p. 2.
83Managing Telecommuting, pp. 23, 26.
critical elements for success found in 13 telework cases.84 Improved productivity,
reduced employee stress, saved commuting time, access at home to electronic mail
and information as at work, and increased attention to maintaining interpersonal
relationships were the common themes. As for keys to success, three critical elements
were “managers with a willingness to experiment, motivated, self-starting employees,
and clearly defined expectations at the outset.”85 A March 14, 2001 seminar
conducted by OPM also included presentations on specific employee experiences with86
The GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy released the findings of its study
on effective practices for establishing successful telework programs in September
2001. Conducted in the fall and winter of 2000, the study asked “62 experts with
specializations in telework” “to assess the value of 33 telework practices” that a blue-
ribbon panel of private sector, non-profit, and government experts had recommended
in 1999. The experts rated seven of the recommended practices as “essential” to the
success of a telework program. These practices were: (1) developing clear,
measurable telework program goals; (2) utilizing an executive champion; (3) utilizing
a telework program manager/coordinator; (4) requiring telework training for
managers of teleworkers; (5) ensuring that teleworker performance appraisals follow
the same procedures and guidelines as those applied to other employees; (6)
conducting an assessment to determine teleworker and/or organizational technology
needs; and (7) establishing formal arrangements for technical support of teleworkers.87
Federal Employee Views. The Merit Systems Protection Board’s (MSPB’s)
2000 survey on Merit Principles asked executive branch employees throughout the
government about the availability and importance of various family-friendly programs.
With regard to telecommuting, 20% of respondents reported that such a program was
available to them; 63% said it was not available; and 17% didn’t know or were not
sure. A telecommuting program was either important or very important to 47% of
employees responding to the survey.88 Of those employees who considered
84The cases were a GS-13 budget analyst, a GS-13/14 information technology specialist, a
GS-12 contract specialist, a GS-13 hearing representative, a GS-13 mathematical statistician,
a GS-13 medical librarian, a GS-7 office automation assistant, a GS-12 and a GS-13 human
resources specialist, a GS-12 safety and health compliance officer, a GS-12 safety specialist,
a GS-12 statistician, and a GS-7 voucher examiner.
85U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Merit Systems Oversight and Effectiveness,
Telework Works: A Compendium of Success Stories (Washington: May 2001), pp. 3-5.
86The presentations are available on the Internet at [http://www.opm.gov/wrkfam/telecomm/
telecomm.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
87U.S. General Services Administration, Expert Consensus on Recommended Practices for
Telework Program Success (Washington: Sept. 2001), p. i.
88U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Office of Policy and Evaluation, Issues of Merit,
Sept. 2000, p. 5. Using OPM’s Central Personnel Data File (CPDF), MSPB selected random
samples of 750 employees from 22 major executive branch departments and independentrd
agencies. A 23 category, called “other,” included a random sample of 750 employees from
the remaining smaller agencies. For information on the survey, see the MSPB Web site at
telecommuting important, 55% “are more likely to plan to leave when it is not
available” than when it is available (44%).89 In reporting the findings, MSPB noted:
Of all the family-friendly programs that we asked about in our survey ...
telecommuting stood out for several reasons. First, it showed the greatest disparity
between importance and availability; making it one of the most-desired but least-
available programs. Second, of all the work/life programs we asked about, only
telecommuting was the one that appeared to have a relationship to employee
intentions to retire or look for another job in the coming year (i.e., ‘planning to
leave’).... Telecommuting is certainly not the only factor related to employee plans
to leave their jobs. Indeed, more than a few respondents to whom telecommuting
is important say they plan to leave even when telecommuting is available.
Nevertheless, the data show that telecommuting has high appeal for many90
Telework Benefits. A December 2000 report issued by the Senate
Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring, and the
District of Columbia of the Committee on Governmental Affairs supported efforts to
increase the number of federal employees who are telecommuting, stating that such
programs “make federal service more attractive to many employees, especially parents
of young children,” and “ha[ve] the potential to reduce traffic congestion and91
pollution in large metropolitan areas.”
Telework has been demonstrated to have a practical application in the event of
emergencies to continue the critical legislative and administrative operations of
Congress. The discovery of anthrax spores in the Hart Senate Office Building on
October 17, 2001, and the subsequent sweep of the Capitol complex buildings for
anthrax contamination, propelled Members of the House and Senate, committees, and
staff into a type of unscheduled telework program. This work at alternate locations
constituted the first time Congress had vacated its office buildings since the British
burned the Capitol in 1814. Most of the House and Senate Office Buildings reopened
by November 6, 2001, except for the Hart Senate Office Building and selected offices
in the Longworth House Office Building.92 Fumigation of Hart Building offices to
destroy all traces of anthrax spores began on December 1, 2001. The Hart Building
reopened on January 22, 2002.
[http://www.mspb.gov/studies/survey2000.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001. (Hereafter cited as
Issues of Merit.)
89U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Office of Policy and Evaluation, Issues of Merit, Dec.
91The Crisis in Human Capital, p. 48.
92On Nov. 17 and 18, 2001, the Dirksen and Russell Senate Office Buildings were closed for
further anthrax testing; they reopened on November 19, 2001. Following additional
discoveries of anthrax, these buildings experienced further shutdowns for temporary periods.
Forced to leave their offices and committee rooms while the Centers for Disease
Control conducted a sweep of all House and Senate office buildings for anthrax
bacteria, House Members and staff set up temporary offices at the headquarters of the
General Accounting Office (GAO), while Senators and their staff relocated
temporarily to the Postal Square Building near Union Station, just blocks from their
office buildings. Three staff members from each House office and up to 20 committee
aides (a total of about 2,000 staff) were given office space on two floors of the GAO93
building. Two telephones, two computers, and office supplies were given to each
skeleton House staff. At the Postal Square Building, two staff members from each
Senate office were given office space and one telephone line each.94 The Library of
Congress and the Congressional Research Service also offered office space to
Members and staff. Congress continued to carry on its work, holding legislative
sessions in the Capitol, after an abbreviated recess. Senators with “hideaway” offices
in the Capitol building brought some of their staff to work, but not all Senators had
such offices. Some House leadership offices and committees had office space in the
Capitol building and were able to accommodate other staff. Still other congressional
staff worked in Capitol basement hallways, out of cars and minivans, at home, or in
the homes of Members and staff who live on Capitol Hill or in the suburbs. Some
staff were dispatched to the Members’ district or home offices.
Determination, improvisation, ingenuity, flexibility, and available technology
enabled Members and staff to continue their work in a way that would not have been
possible a few short years ago. Laptops, cell phones, pagers, palm pilots,
Blackberries, and other wireless technology kept Members and staff in constant
contact. Congressional staff whose offices had remote connectivity and policies in
place were able to access their office computers and even make changes to Members’
Web sites so that constituents as well as their colleagues could have updated
information about the rapidly changing events on Capitol Hill, and about legislative
action. Prior to October 15, 2001, an estimated 5% of congressional offices had the
ability to update their Web sites remotely, and efforts to increase remote access had
been widely discussed and were being planned. Some House staffers have Message
Manager, a new voice mail tool that turns existing voice mail accounts into computer-
based communications systems.95
Despite new technology and great effort, however, some work could not be
conducted as efficiently because of the rushed departures and length of the shutdown,
because certain files and paperwork remained in the quarantined offices, and because
93Bill Swindell and Brian Nutting, “House and Senate Scramble for Temporary Office Space,”
CQ Monitor News, Oct. 23, 2001, available on the Internet at [http://oncongress.cq.com],
visited Dec. 17, 2001.
94Polly Forster and Erin P. Billings, “Members, Staff Attempt to Deal With Office Upheaval,”
RollCallDaily, Oct. 23, 2001, available on the Internet at [http://rollcalldaily.com], visited
Dec. 17, 2001.
95Congress Online Project, “How Is Anthrax Changing Congress and How Are Offices Using
Technology to Cope?” Nov. 2001 newsletter available on the Internet at [http://www.
congressonlineproject.org/november.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001. The Congress Online
Project, funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is conducted by the George
Washington University and the Congressional Management Foundation.
technological capabilities and equipment varied at the temporary work locations.96
Staff were provided space to work, but may have had to go outside those temporary
offices to make calls by cell phone. A period of adjustment to working under
emergency conditions and in new environments occurred.
Some congressional hearings, scheduled before the congressional office
shutdown, were held in the Capitol. On one morning, Capitol basement room SC-5
was the site for Senate hearings, including hearings on anthrax exposure held by the
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and
Education; in the afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a
confirmation hearing in the same room. The House had a more difficult time keeping
to its scheduled hearings because of the size of its committees, but it, too, was able
to hold to some scheduled hearings, including, at the Department of Health and
Human Services, the House Government Reform Committee’s National Security,
Veterans’ Affairs, and International Relations Subcommittee hearing on vaccines to97
defend against biological warfare. The House Democratic Task Force on Homeland
Security met at a Capitol Hill townhouse to plan recommendations on terrorism
Discussions on contingency plans for continuing Congress’s operations in the
event of future evacuations and emergencies have begun. The House has embarked
on a project to transfer its operations to Fort McNair under emergency conditions.
These plans include replicating the House chamber to continue legislative sessions.99
The Senate’s contingency plan includes meeting at a military installation. The
feasibility and desirability of an e-Congress system that would enable Members to
vote electronically from a remote location continues to be debated.100
Working under these extraordinary and unprecedented conditions, Members and
staff gained experience and knowledge about telework: what was possible, what was
lacking and needed, and what they might do to improve their ability to work in any
future emergencies, and prepare and plan for contingencies.101
96Betsy Rothstein, “Displaced Hill Staffers Have Adjustment Woes,” The Hill, Dec. 17, 2001,
97Bill Swindell and Brian Nutting, “House and Senate Scramble for Temporary Office Space,”
CQ Monitor News, Oct. 23, 2001, available on the Internet at [http://oncongress.cq.com],
visited Dec. 17, 2001.
98Amy Keller and Paul Kane, “Hill Works Through Closures,” Roll Call, Oct. 22, 2001, p.
99Susan Crabtree, “Ft. McNair Ready for House Action,” Roll Call, Nov. 1, 2001, p. 1.
100Amy Keller, “E-Congress: Possible? Yes. Likely? No.,” Roll Call, Nov. 5, 2001, p. 1.
101On Oct. 5, 2001, prior to the discovery of anthrax spores in Senate and House offices, the
Congressional Management Foundation held a training seminar on crisis management,
attended by staff from 55 House and Senate offices. The program included advice on
preparations for sudden evacuations and tips on setting up alternate work spaces, telephone
trees, and backup of computer systems in case of emergencies.
Prior to October 2001, an examination of the House and the Senate, their
respective administrative offices, and legislative branch support agencies revealed no
single telecommuting policy in the legislative branch. Senate, House, and legislative
branch agencies that have established formal telework policies are not provided
funding specifically for this purpose; funding must be taken out of existing budgets.
In the House, ordinary and necessary telework expenses incurred by Members and
their employees, in compliance with the Committee on House Administration’s
telecommuting policy, are reimbursable under the Members’ Representational
Allowance (MRA), as provided for in the Members’ Congressional Handbook.102
Funds for training qualify under the MRA as well. Conversations with the human
resources offices of congressional offices and legislative support entities that have
telework programs indicate that most teleworkers are working from home. As of
October 1, 2001, only a handful of legislative branch employees were using the GSA
telework centers. Entities in the legislative branch that have established formal
telecommuting policies, or are considering a telecommuting policy, are discussed103
Members of Congress. Members may be said to telework. They perform
legislative, representative, and oversight responsibilities in Washington, DC, carry out
their duties at their respective home district and state offices, and hold field hearings
and town hall meetings to develop and maintain personal contact with constituents.
Laptops, palm pilots, and other wireless technology have enhanced their ability to
work even when they are not in their Washington offices, in committee rooms, or in
the Senate or House chambers. Travel between Washington and district/state offices
by air, rail, or car is time-consuming, and Members make best use of this time by
reading memoranda, reports, and briefing papers; analyzing issues; planning their
schedules; and communicating on cell phones (without the usual interruptions they
experience while in their offices). On occasion, Members participate in congressional
delegations to foreign countries, inter-parliamentary exchanges, and international
conferences. During such trips, technology has increasingly facilitated their mobility
and ability to maintain contact with their offices.
State and District Staff. On occasion, some congressional staff who work
at Members’ home district and state offices carry out their responsibilities at locations
outside of the primary office. These staff, usually field representatives and
caseworkers, may schedule meetings regularly with constituents (about cases or other
issues of concern) at local community centers or at other locations more convenient
and accessible to constituents, particularly in districts and states that have large rural
communities. Although not called telework, these activities performed away from the
primary office location may be characterized as such. Frequently, senior district and
state staff and/or Washington staff (such as the chief of staff or communications
director) may also accompany the Member to such events as town hall meetings and
other gatherings throughout the district or state.
102See the telecommuting section of the Members’ Congressional Handbook, available on the
Internet at [http://www.house.gov/cha/handbook/handbook1.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
103Entities that have not established telecommuting policies, according to conversations with
them, are the offices of the Secretary of the Senate, the Clerk of the House, the House
Inspector General, the Government Printing Office, and the Architect of the Capitol.
House of Representatives. In the 106th Congress, the Committee on House
Administration adopted a telecommuting policy available to Members’ offices,
committees, and House administrative offices, in committee resolution 106-1-21 on
October 21, 1999. The resolution provides guidelines and rules for offices that
choose to establish their own programs. The House policy defines telecommuting as
“a working arrangement, mutually agreed upon by the employee and the employing
office, whereby the employee works at an alternative worksite on specified days
and/or for specified hours.” An alternative worksite is a location other than the central
worksite approved by the employing office (for example, a residence or a
The House Administration Committee chair and ranking member announced the
bipartisan House policy to all House Members in a November 5, 1999 Dear
Colleague letter. The policy states that telecommuting is not a right or benefit, and
that the establishment of such a program is entirely at the discretion of each
employing office. A clear prohibition specifies that the alternative worksite may not
be a political, campaign, or commercial office.104
Under House Administration Committee resolution 106-1-21, the employing
office has discretion, subject to applicable House rules and regulations, on establishing
the criteria for selecting eligible employees to participate in its telecommuting
program. A telecommuting agreement must be signed by employees prior to their
participation in the program. Factors considered in the selection of employees for the
program may include their ability to work without direct supervision; their specific
work responsibilities (requiring minimum supervision); equipment or materials
needed; and an assurance that telecommuting will not adversely affect their
performance or the responsibilities of co-workers. In general, the program is not
recommended as suitable for new employees, employees who require close
supervision, or those who require interaction with co-workers.
Applicable rules and regulations under the House policy, in accordance with
committee resolution 106-1-21, provide:
An employee with a telecommuting work arrangement is covered by the same
rules, regulations and procedures applicable to all employees of the employing
office, including those set forth in Committee on House Administration
regulations, the employing office’s employee manual, the Rules of the House of
Representatives, applicable federal laws, and the guidance of the House Committee
on Standards of Official Conduct. Violation of any of these rules, regulations,
procedures or laws may result in disciplinary action up to and including
termination of employment.
Work schedules must comply with the Congressional Accountability Act and
regulations promulgated thereunder.
104In accordance with the House policy adopted by the House Administration Committee.
The Members’ Congressional Handbook provides that ordinary and necessary
telecommuting expenses incurred in compliance with the telecommuting policy are
According to the telecommuting policy approved by the Committee on House
Administration, strict guidelines on confidentiality and security are outlined in the
House policy. The guidelines include a discussion of access to restricted information,106
storage of files, and establishment of procedures to ensure confidentiality.
The Committee on House Administration, chaired by Representative Bob Ney,
was responsible for temporarily relocating all House Members and some
congressional staff off-site after the House buildings were closed on October 17, 2001
for anthrax testing.107 During the shutdown, the ability to access office computer
systems was possible only for Member offices that had the necessary technology and
policies already in place.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Representative Steny Hoyer,
ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, stressed the need for
remote access to information by Member and committee offices, as well as storage108
solutions that raise security issues. Responding to concerns of Members and staff
that they be able to access their computer systems from off-site locations during
future emergencies, House conferees inserted language in the FY2002 Legislative
Branch Appropriations conference report (H.Rept. 107-259) that urged the “Chief
Administrative Officer (CAO), the Clerk, and other relevant House officers to quickly
develop a plan under which each office of the House of Representatives shall have
available some permanent, reliable means to access its computer systems from a
remote location.” The House managers of the bill also requested that the CAO
“prepare and submit a report to the Committees on House Administration and
Appropriations of the House of Representatives not later than 90 days after the
enactment of the bill which describes the progress made by the Chief Administrative
Officer in preparing and implementing this plan.” During House consideration of the
rule to debate H.R. 2647, Representative Jim Moran, the ranking member of the
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, stated that he was
pleased that the House Chief Administrative Officer:
will be working on a plan to help more Members, staff, committees, and legislative
branch agencies access their computer systems from a remote location. In times
of peace, this initiative would have been called teleworking. In times of war, and
our experience with the closure of House offices, providing Members access from
105See the telecommuting section of the Members’ Congressional Handbook, available on the
Internet at [http://www.house.gov/cha/handbook/handbook1.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
106The House telecommuting policy and a sample agreement may be viewed on the House
intranet Web site [http://intranet.house.gov], visited Oct. 25, 2001. (House Access Only)
107Rep. Bob Ney, press release of Nov. 6, 2001, available on the Internet at
[http://nnn.house.gov], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
108Ethan Wallison and Ben Pershing, “Panels Planning for Crisis,” Roll Call, Nov. 5, 2001,
a remote location, ... has become an essential requirement to preserve the109
operations of this institution.
The House voted to approve the conference report for H.R. 2647 on November 1,
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). In spring 2000, this
House administrative office established a telecommuting policy nearly identical to the
general House telecommuting policy described earlier. The CAO policy defines
telecommuting as “a working arrangement, mutually agreed upon by the employee
and the Associate Administrator of an employee, whereby the employee works at an
alternative work site on specific days and/or for specified hours.” The policy was
adopted following a pilot telecommuting program which began on February 1, 2000
and ended on April 30, 2000. Seven participants in the pilot program telecommuted
part-time, ranging from two to eight days during the three-month period. Results of
the surveys of both supervisors and participants enabled the CAO to review and
modify its program for implementation throughout the CAO. The positive survey
feedback resulted in the CAO’s enacting a permanent telecommuting policy, which
is now in effect. In 2001, five of approximately 570 permanent employees
telecommute. The CAO program also addresses employees working from home
because of disability and states: “In addition to this telecommuting program, in
accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the CAO may reasonably
accommodate an eligible employee with a qualified disability by allowing the
employee to work at home. As a condition of such a request, the CAO may require110
certification from a physician of the need for such accommodation.”
House Sergeant at Arms. According to the House Sergeant at Arms Office,
the office follows the House telecommuting policy and guidelines. Currently, no
employees participate in the program; however, should an employee ask to
telecommute, the office would consider the feasibility of granting the request.
Senate. While there is no Senate-wide telecommuting policy, each Senate
office and committee sets its own policy for employees on a case-by-case basis. The
Senate Committee on Rules and Administration is currently examining the various
aspects of telecommuting.
Senate offices and committees appear not to have a uniform definition or
application of telecommuting. For example, some offices may include extended
maternity or medical leave under this definition although they have no formal,
established telecommuting policies.111
109Comments of Rep. Jim Moran, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 147, Oct. 31,
110Information based on discussions with and documents received from the Office of the Chief
Administrative Officer from Oct. 2000 through Jan. 2001.
111Based on conversations with the respective staffs of the Senate Committee on Rules and
Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA). Beginning in October 1998, this office
implemented a telecommuting program that provides “full-time SAA employees the
opportunity to complete certain pre-approved duties from a location other than the
standard workplace.” The SAA telecommuting policy is a voluntary and cooperative
agreement between the SAA and the employee. Participation in the program is not an
employee’s right, nor is it guaranteed or expected as a condition of employment. The
department director has sole discretion to establish eligibility for participation in the
telecommuting program. Among the considerations to qualify for the program are an
employee’s overall performance (which must meet or exceed SAA standards); ability
to work independently with minimal supervision; and ability to maintain a high level
of productivity. In addition, position qualifications provide that the assignments and
duties to be completed do not require on-site presence to be performed properly.
All SAA telecommuting agreements must meet the following requirements: (1)
be approved in advance by the employee and the employee’s department director; (2)
have no adverse impact on SAA services provided to the Senate; and (3) allow for the
agreement to be terminated at any time by the employee or the SAA for any reason.
Under the policy, “the employee agrees to protect SAA records from unauthorized
disclosure or damage and will comply with requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974,
5 U.S.C. 552a.” The telecommuting agreement must specify the necessary security
provisions as needed. (The sample agreement provided by the SAA leaves this
provision blank so that required safeguards may be tailored to needs.) An inspection
of the alternate workplace may be conducted during the employee’s normal working
hours to ensure proper maintenance of SAA-owned property and conformance with
Legislative Branch Support Agencies
The following legislative support agencies have implemented telecommuting
programs or are currently examining telework to determine its feasibility as a
component of a flexible workplace policy.
Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The Architect of the Capitol has
implemented a pilot alternative workplace program to enable employees experiencing
medical difficulties to work from their residence. Upon conclusion of the pilot, the
AOC will evaluate the effectiveness of the program.113
Congressional Budget Office (CBO).114 This office established an
alternate work location program in January 1999. CBO defines the program as “an
Administration, the Secretary of the Senate, and various Members’ offices from Nov. 2000
through Jan. 2001.
112Based on discussions with the human resources office in the Sergeant at Arms Office, and
information sent to CRS by facsimile Nov. 15, 2000.
113Based on conversation with AOC human resources offices on Feb. 14, 2002.
114Based on discussions with the human resources office at the Congressional Budget Office
in Oct. 2000 and Jan. 2001, and information transmitted to CRS by e-mail Oct. 17, 2000.
arrangement whereby an employee is permitted to work at home or in another
location. In some cases, employees may be connected to the office by telephone,
facsimile or computer.” According to CBO, it developed alternate work location
arrangements to optimize performance; recruit and retain staff; and help staff balance
professional work life with personal and family needs. Participation in this program
is considered on a case-by-case basis and is not granted automatically. Supervisors
determine those who may participate according to work performance, and the needs
of the office.
Participating CBO staff must sign a written agreement defining their work and
performance expectations. A number of terms are stipulated in the agreement. The
employee must be accessible in person at the off-site office, by telephone, or by
electronic mail, during scheduled work hours. Moreover, the employee must be
available to work in the main CBO office as needed. CBO has the right to inspect the
off-site office. CBO-supplied property and other resources must be used solely for
official CBO business and remain the property of the agency. Any CBO employee
working off-site is advised to consult tax and insurance policies on the home worksite
because it is the employee’s responsibility, and CBO is not liable for the employee’s
personal or real property at the alternate workplace. Depending on the agreement,
the employee may or may not have the option to return to the CBO workplace, and
termination of the arrangement may occur with reasonable advance notice. The
agreement also specifies security and confidentiality guidelines. In 1999, one
employee participated in this program, and two employees participated in 2000 and
During a sweep of the Ford House Office Building (where the CBO offices are
located) for anthrax contamination, traces were found in the building’s mail facility
that routes mail to the Longworth House Office Building. From October 18, 2001
until the CBO offices in the Ford Building were re-opened on November 6, 2001,
CBO staff were displaced and worked at other locations. Many teleworked from
home; others utilized temporary space at various alternate sites, including the
Department of the Interior and Congressional Research Service offices in the Madison
Building of the Library of Congress.
General Accounting Office (GAO).115 In addition to participating in an
OPM government-wide flexiplace pilot program, GAO also conducted its own pilot
program. Since June 1994, GAO has had a flexiplace arrangement that allows
employees to work outside the traditional office setting. The positive feedback from
the two pilots resulted in the establishment of a flexiplace program. Flexiplace is
defined as “flexibility in work location with no change in official duty station or
conditions of employment.”
Under this policy, all full-time and part-time employees are eligible to participate,
provided they meet certain performance standards and have proven work records
indicating their ability to work independently with limited supervision. Flexiplace may
be short-term or ongoing. Managers determine whether duties and work
115Based on discussions with officials at the U.S. General Accounting Office from Oct. 2000
through Jan. 2001, and Order 2300.5 in the GAO Operations Manual.
arrangements are appropriate for off-site work. Employees who telework on a
continuing basis must be scheduled to spend at least one day a week in the office,
unless exceptions are approved by the unit head. An employee may not work
overtime without prior supervisory approval, and unauthorized overtime work may
result in the termination of the flexiplace agreement, or other action. Employees are
required to document time and attendance and submit bi-weekly work schedules for
A number of specific safeguards for the protection of classified and sensitive data
and records are stipulated in the GAO policy, as quoted below.
Classified information shall not be taken to, accessed from, or processed at off-site
(i.e., flexiplace) location.
The processing of unclassified sensitive data is not recommended on off-site
systems. However, it may be processed on off-site systems only when
GAO/OMIC officials certify that the system adequately protects records and that
such use conforms to applicable laws and policies.
Employees with access to records that contain sensitive information, including
records subject to GAO’s privacy regulations, must maintain appropriate
administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security of the
The authorization of the supervisor is required when sensitive information
(including information subject to GAO’s privacy regulations), whether in hard
copy or electronic media form, is used by employees working at an alternate
worksite. In addition, the supervisor must ensure that employees are
knowledgeable of the appropriate/necessary safeguards.
Employee agrees to protect government/agency records from unauthorized
disclosure or damage and will comply with privacy requirements set forth in law
GAO has the right to inspect the alternative worksite during the employee’s
normal working hours for purposes of ensuring safety standards and proper
maintenance of government-owned property. If an inspection is deemed appropriate,
the employee is to receive at least 24 hours’ advance notice.
With the closure of the House office buildings because of the anthrax threat,
about half of the 1,200 GAO employees whose offices were being used by House
Members and congressional staff moved to work in conference rooms and doubled
or tripled up with GAO colleagues in other parts of the building. The remaining staff116
teleworked, with the vast majority working at home.
GAO is currently conducting an internal survey of each of its units to determine
how many are participating in the flexiplace program. In addition, the survey will
116Tanya N. Ballard, “In Anthrax Aftermath, GAO Turns to Telecommuting,” Nov. 1, 2001,
available on the Internet at [http://www.govexec.com], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
gather information on how frequently the program is used and the range of usage
within the units.117
Library of Congress. The Library of Congress formed a task force early in
2000 to explore the feasibility and desirability of a telework program for its
employees. The task force, composed of managers from a cross-section of the
Library, was charged with reviewing any regulations or previous negotiations on
working at home; which divisions or positions would be more conducive to such
arrangements; and the associated costs of a telework program. The task force,
formed under the auspices of the Library’s Human Resources 21st Century initiatives,
established a framework and guidelines for telework pilots that could be used by units
in the Library having positions with job tasks that could be performed at home as
easily as at the work site. As part of its work, the task force also revised the Library’s
regulations to allow service units to authorize episodic or intermittent work at home
arrangements for health or other time-related needs.118 Prior to implementing the
telework framework and guidelines, the Library and its Professional Guild (American
Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2910), one
of four unions at the Library, had entered into bargaining over a new collective
bargaining agreement. The bargaining was successfully completed in January 2002,
and resulted in a new agreement that includes an article on a telework pilot program.
It is anticipated that the formal signing of the agreement, including the telework pilot,
will take place in mid-April 2002. According to the terms of the agreement, within
six months after the signing, the Library will implement a one year pilot that will allow
members of the Guild to participate in a pilot to test working at home. Concurrently,
the Library is also selectively offering non-bargaining unit members an opportunity
to test working at home (under a 90-day pilot program for a handful of employees
that began in February 2002).
107th Congress Legislation
At this time, there is no pending legislation specifically related to policies on
telework for federal employees.119 However, legislation that would permit employees
of federal contractors, in the performance of contracts with executive agencies, to
telecommute has been passed by the House of Representatives. H.R. 3924, the
Freedom to Telecommute Act of 2002, passed the House on a 421 to 0 roll call vote
(No. 71) on March 20, 2002.120
117Based on telephone conversation with GAO official on Nov. 2, 2001.
118LCR 2014-8, Staff Members Working Offsite, Jan. 24, 2002.
119Legislation is pending in the 107th Congress related to tax credits for telework. The bills
are H.R. 1012, introduced by Representative Frank Wolf; H.R. 2597, introduced by
Representative Scott McInnis; S. 521, introduced by Senator Rick Santorum; and S. 1856,
introduced by Senator John Kerry.
120On the same day, the House agreed to the rule that provided for consideration of the bill by
voice vote. H.R. 3924 was referred to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on Mar.
21, 2002. Representative Tom Davis introduced H.R. 3924 in the House of Representatives
The House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy of the
Committee on Government Reform conducted hearings on telework in March and
September 2001. The first hearing focused on managing telework policies. The
second hearing addressed public and private approaches to telework.
Managing Telework Policies
During its March 22, 2001 hearing, the subcommittee took testimony from
representatives of OPM, GSA, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the
National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH), American Telephone and
Telegraph (AT&T), and the Washington Metropolitan Telework Centers (WMTC).
In his opening statement, the subcommittee chairman, Representative Tom Davis,
identified telecommuting as critical to the federal government’s recruitment and
Office of Personnel Management. Commenting on why telecommuting
has not been implemented “as quick [sic] as many would have liked,” the then Acting
Director of OPM, Steven R. Cohen, said that this was “partly due to many
misconceptions about telecommuting as a viable work option.” He noted OPM’s
advisory role on telework, but emphasized that the law “gives the authority to develop
and implement specific telecommuting policies to each executive agency.”121
General Services Administration. David L. Bibb, Acting Deputy
Administrator at GSA, recommended that agencies focus on four areas in
implementing telework: (1) training for both managers and staff on working in a
telework environment, including a focus on results rather than where the work is
performed; (2) continuing ongoing initiatives to identify problems with and find
solutions for telework; (3) “recogniz[ing] that greater numbers of teleworkers will
require an increased investment in technology, connectivity, and training”; and (4)
communicating the rationale for telework and communicating that it is encouraged
Federal Railroad Administration. The Acting Deputy Administrator of the
FRA, S. Mark Lindsey, testified that agency employees who telecommute have
on Mar. 12, 2002, and it was referred to the House Committee on Government Reform. The
committee considered and marked up the bill on Mar. 14, 2002. The text of H.R. 3924
previously had been introduced as Section 4 of H.R. 3843, the Federal Information
Technology Workforce and Acquisition Improvement Act of 2002, introduced in the House
of Representatives by Representative Dan Burton (for himself and Representative Davis) on
Mar. 5, 2002 and referred to the House Committee on Government Reform.
121U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Technology
and Procurement Policy, Telework Policies, hearing, 107th Cong., 1st sess., March 22, 2001
(Washington: GPO, 2001), pp. 30, 35.
122Ibid., pp. 43-44.
improved their productivity in terms of meeting deadlines and completing reports,
assignments, and projects. A distraction-free work environment, reduced personal
cost associated with commuting to work, and reduced employee stress were other123
benefits of telecommuting identified by employees.
National Industries for the Severely Handicapped. According to Tony
Young, the director of governmental activities for NISH, a non-profit organization,
telework is “particularly attractive ... to people with severe disabilities who have
significant transportation barriers to employment or who live in areas where
transportation options are limited.” Stating that “NISH is not aware of a government
contract that employs great numbers of individuals with disabilities through telework,”
he recommended that federal agencies do more to reach this “previously underutilized
workforce,” such as contracting with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program, which
provides employment opportunities to people with severe disabilities.124
American Telephone and Telegraph. The vice president for environment,
health, and safety at AT&T, Dr. Braden Allenby, discussed his company’s use of
telework. He said that AT&T’s management approach is partly responsible for the
fact that 56% of the company’s employees participate in telework at least once a
month. AT&T believes that:
telework should be integrated into the business.... [A]lmost every existing
organization plays a role in terms of policies, processes and procedures within the
existing business functions. For example, Real Estate takes telework into account
when designing space. Security takes remote work into account when
implementing new policies, processes and procedures. Information Technology
Services takes telework into account when they build out our employee intranet.125
What this does is ensure a sustainable management system for telework.
Further, according to Dr. Allenby:
What we’ve learned is that many managers are already working with teams and
individuals who work elsewhere ... perhaps on the other side of the globe, or
maybe only the next building over.... [I]n today’s environment, it is a basic
expectation that managers are able to manage beyond their line of sight. Managers
and workers who are sitting in an office working with managers and workers126
sitting in other offices are ideal candidates for telework.
Washington Metropolitan Telework Centers. Jennifer Thomas Alcott
presented testimony to the subcommittee on behalf of the telework centers that are
administered by GSA. As a manager of three centers located between the Capitol
beltway and Fredericksburg, Virginia, along Interstate 95, she said that “the full and
long term support” of GSA is necessary for a successful telework center program.
She stated that because “the program is not funded and overseen by one central office
123Ibid., pp. 53-54.
124Ibid., p. 5.
125Ibid., p. 73.
126Ibid., pp. 73-74.
at GSA, ... there has been no long-term commitment from GSA ... in terms of either
funding or management, and the local managing partners never know from year to
year whether or not the telework center program will continue.” In her opinion,
“[t]he telework centers fill an important market niche” for telecommuters, including
those who do not have the space or resources for a home office or who “prefer the
distinct delineation between their work and their personal lives.”127
Public and Private Approaches to Telework
At its September 6, 2001 hearing, the Subcommittee on Technology and
Procurement Policy took testimony from representatives of GAO, OPM, GSA, the
Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), Siemens Enterprise
Networks, and CarrAmerica. Subcommittee chairman Davis stated that changing the
federal workplace culture will not occur overnight and that federal “managers need128
to shift their focus from process-oriented performance measurements to results.”
General Accounting Office. Bob Robertson, director of Education,
Workforce, and Income Security Issues at GAO, told the subcommittee that, in the
private sector, “decisions on whether an organization ultimately adopted
telecommuting programs or expanded them over time was heavily dependent on the
resolution of three concerns: identifying the positions and employees suitable for
telecommuting; protecting data; and controlling the costs associated with
telecommuting.” He also noted that the application of laws and regulations covering
taxes, workplace safety, recordkeeping, and liability for injuries associated with
telecommuting “is still evolving and unclear at this time.”
Office of Personnel Management. According to Teresa Jenkins, director
of the Office of Workforce Relations at OPM, its April survey of executive branch
agencies found that 76 agencies have telework policies in place (18 agencies reported
no policies in place), and 2.6% of federal employees telecommute at least one day per
week. She identified for the subcommittee the various efforts the agency has
undertaken to increase executive branch participation in telework. Among these
efforts, OPM is sharing best practices with, and aggressively marketing telework to,
federal agencies, has launched a joint Web site with GSA to improve access to
information on telework, is developing an Internet-based training module on telework,
and has conducted a leadership seminar for top agency officials.
General Services Administration. David Bibb of GSA noted for the
subcommittee that 2,500 agency employees, or 21% of its workforce, are
teleworking; 800 employees telework on a regularly scheduled basis one day per
week; 200 telework on a regularly scheduled basis one day per pay period; and some
127Ibid., p. 88.
128All quotations in this section are taken from the unprinted hearing record available on the
Internet at [http://www.house.gov/reform/tapps/index.htm], visited Dec. 17, 2001 (choose
Hearings), U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on
Technology and Procurement Policy, Toward a Telework-Friendly Government Workplace:thst
An Update on Public and Private Approaches to Telecommuting, hearing, 107 Cong., 1
sess., Sept. 6, 2001 (Unprinted).
based telework will be completed early in 2002. The study will identify technology
barriers to telework, estimate the prevalence of such barriers across agencies and the
number and types of employees affected, and recommend solutions and
implementation of those solutions to break down technology barriers.
Information Technology Association of America. According to Harris
N. Miller, president of the ITAA, the organization has compiled information showing
the following benefits of telecommuting for the private sector:
AT&T teleworkers work 5 more hours per week at home than AT&T office
JD Edwards teleworkers are 20-25% more productive than their office
AT&T saves $3,000 per teleworker annually.
Telework can cut corporate real estate costs by 25-90%.
Teleworkers save 52.9 minutes of commute time each workday.
Barriers to widespread participation in telework arrangements, according to Mr.
Miller, may be the inability of employees to access broadband technologies remotely,
concerns about information security, managerial resistance, and regulations related to
tax and home safety issues.
Siemens Enterprise Networks. The vice president for global marketing for
Siemens Enterprise Networks, Mark Straton, testified that since 1996, teleworking
has resulted in a 35% nationwide decrease in office space, at an annual cost savings
of over $3 million dollars and productivity increases of over 20% for the electronic
company. He recommended that the federal government partner with the private
sector on telework programs and consider pilot telework programs.
CarrAmerica. Robert M. Milkovich, managing director of CarrAmerica, a real
estate investment trust with experience in providing office space for mobile
workforces, believes that technology “will continue to be enhanced at a rapid pace.”
According to Milkovich:
The challenge of telework is faced on the cultural side of the equation. It is our
experience that the companies and organizations that are technologically on the
forefront have fewer cultural hurdles to overcome. These companies are already
invested in the new economy, both financially and culturally[,] and operate with
an advanced or progressive way of doing business.... Facility projections for space
utilization and growth are made easier for top management to track and project.
These companies view telework as a method to create a more flexible use of
workspace.... The cultural challenge can only be overcome if the technology is in
place to support management and its employees and if the economic savings are
substantial enough to make it a compelling business decision.
Several issues related to telework will require continuous evaluation as entities
in the executive and legislative branches consider, develop, and implement programs.
Security and Confidentiality129
Agency investments in information technology infrastructure, which allow
firewalls to be created for both Internet and e-mail files, are increasing the security
and confidentiality of government information. Security measures and established
procedures for protecting sensitive information, such as the use of passwords for
different gateways, likewise are designed to prevent unauthorized access.
Nevertheless, information technology professionals and agency employees need to
work together to monitor the effectiveness of policies and requirements specific to
their work. Hackers are increasingly aggressive in infiltrating government computer
networks and systems, and planting viruses that can incapacitate them and result in
possible shutdown of entire systems. Files could be permanently lost, and the
integrity and authenticity of data could be compromised. Agencies are continuously
vigilant and share information to develop common safeguards and antidotes for
combating these attacks. They will need to extend such vigilance to ensure that the
connections between central worksites and alternative worksites are secure.
A Department of Energy representative told the Telework Issues Working
Group that “There is a need to establish a Government-wide minimum level of
teleworker access to non-classified information such as e-mail (particularly for
networks which have significant controls/firewalls that prohibit teleworking on a
regular basis).” The representative “strongly recommend[ed] a partnership among the
Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Counsel, GSA, and OPM on this issue.”130
In the legislative branch, as discussed under Implementation above, the House,
Senate Sergeant at Arms, CBO, and GAO policies address confidentiality and
security. Confidentiality in serving Congress is an important component of the
missions of the legislative branch support agencies.
In addition to the security and confidentiality considerations, the requirements131
of the Privacy Act must be met by federal agencies. These include “requirements
regarding their management — i.e., collection, use, and storage — of personally132
129See CRS Report RL30745, Electronic Government: A Conceptual Overview, by Harold
C. Relyea, esp. pp. 7, 19-20. (Hereafter cited as Electronic Government.)
130“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 4.
13188 Stat. 1896; 5 U.S.C. 552a.
132Electronic Government, p. 29, also p. 5. See also CRS Report 97-71, Access to
GSA has counseled agencies that:
Records subject to the Privacy Act may not be disclosed to anyone except those
authorized access as a requirement of their official responsibilities. Agencies
should ensure that appropriate physical, administrative, and technical safeguards133
are used to protect the security and confidentiality of such records.
The Telework Issues Working Group heard from a representative of the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that the agency “is very concerned
about the protection of Government records while [federal employees are]
telecommuting.” HHS found this protection “to be a serious problem when translated
to flexiplace” and suggested that OPM and/or GSA “specifically address this issue in
telework guidance.” According to the representative:
Some form of control is necessary so that the appropriate Federal office will know
exactly where a record is when it is not in the official files; that hard copy and
electronic records are adequately protected during transmission to and from a
telework site, and that all Federal electronic records and data bases used by an134
employee from a telework site are secure and protected at all times.
In the legislative branch, each of the entities with telework programs addresses
privacy issues in its policies, as discussed under the Implementation section above.
Another issue related to privacy is whether and how government officials will
have access to personal computers owned by teleworking employees, if those
computers are thought to have official government files saved on them. While an
employing agency may arguably conduct unannounced inspections of agency
equipment used in an employee’s home, it is not certain whether such authority exists
when an employee uses his or her own equipment.
Health and Safety135
As more employees participate in telework programs and increase the amount
of time they spend at alternative worksites, health and safety at these locations,
including standards for ergonomics, will continue to be issues for review. Both GSA
and OPM have drawn up checklists that are not legally binding, but enable
teleworkers to certify that specific health and safety elements are present at the
alternative worksites, which may be subject to inspection by the employing office.
Among the items on the checklist are the following.
Are temperature, noise, ventilation, and lighting levels adequate for maintaining
your normal level of job performance?
Government Information in the United States, by Harold C. Relyea.
133“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 17.
134Ibid, p. 5.
135See U.S. Library of Congress, Application of the Occupational Safety and Health Act
(OSHA) to Teleworkers.
Are all circuit breakers and/or fuses in the electrical panel labeled as to intended
Is all electrical equipment free of recognized hazards that would cause physical
harm (frayed wires, bare conductors, loose wires, flexible wires running through
walls, exposed wires to the ceiling)?
Will the building’s electrical system permit the grounding of electrical equipment?
Is there enough light for reading?136
At its initial meeting, the Telework Issues Working Group discussed the need
for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to “publish and
maintain basic guidance [at the] lay-person level, on safety and health in the home
office” and “establish/clarify health/safety responsibilities for alternate worksites such
as telecenters or other non-residence, third-party owned/operated worksites.”137th
During the 106 Congress, at least six bills were introduced on this subject, but none
reached the floor. Five of the bills would have amended OSHA to prevent its
application in home offices, while one bill would have specifically provided for its
As discussed above, all the legislative branch entities with telework programs
have provisions regarding the right of the employing office to inspect the off-site work
Other considerations on which the executive branch is expected to focus include
the funding of telework programs and the training of both managers and employees
about their responsibilities in carrying them out.
Very little data on the funding of telework programs are readily available. There
appear to have been no formal requirements for data collection; hence OPM has
modest data to report. The Departments of the Treasury and HHS anticipate that
they will begin to collect data on their programs so as to monitor the implementation
of the recently passed law mandating establishment of telework policies.139 At the
136U.S. General Services Administration, Evaluation and Innovative Workplaces Division,
Office of Real Property, Office of Governmentwide Policy, Implementation Manual,
Appendix C: Self-Certification Safety Checklist for Home-Based Telecommuters. Printed
from the Internet at [http://policyworks.gov/org/main/mp/library/policydocs/manual10.htm],
visited Dec. 17, 2001.
137“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 6. An OSHA Directive on Home-Based Worksites
dated Feb. 25, 2000, available on the Internet at [http://www.osha.slc.gov/OshDoc/
Directive_data/CPL_2-0-125.html], visited Dec. 17, 2001.
138The five bills that would have amended OSHA application were H.R. 3518, H.R. 3530,
H.R. 3539, H.R. 3588, H.R. 3643, and the one bill that would not have was H.R. 4080.
139P.L. 106-346. Telephone conversations with telework coordinators Garland Green
Telework Issues Working Group meeting, a representative from HHS suggested that
“The Human Resources Technology Council should be directed to bring about
interagency consensus on a minimum standard data set for teleworking ... provid[ing]140
for consistent agency transmissions to OPM’s Central Personnel Data File.” If
accomplished, this would facilitate the evaluation and comparison of the various
telework programs in the executive branch.
OPM is developing a training module on telework that will be designed in a self-
teaching format and accessible by computer. Similarly, the Department of the
Treasury has discussed with GSA the possibility of establishing a common training
program that can be used by all the executive branch agencies.141 According to a
Department of Education representative on the Telework Issues Working Group,
“There is a need to find ways to make managers more comfortable with managing off-
site employees, as well as a need for consistent training, especially in the area[s] of
virtual teaming and communication techniques.” A desire for an increased
“commitment to management and teleworker training” was expressed by142
representatives from HHS and the EPA on the working group as well. Some have
observed that while trust and accountability cannot be taught, they can be built and
environments conducive to them can be fostered.143 OPM emphasizes that an
agreement, worked out in common by, and specifying the responsibilities and work
assignments of, managers and employees, must be signed by both parties before
teleworking can occur. Fulfillment of the agreement would, perhaps, help overcome
the “significant barrier to greater utilization of telework/flexible workplace
arrangements, ... the attitude of the manager and the concern about work being144
Interest in telework continues to grow, and policies continue to evolve in both
the executive and the legislative branches. The Merit Systems Protection Board’s
2000 Survey on Merit Principles, discussed earlier, found that a telecommuting
program was either important or very important to 47% of employees responding to
(Treasury) and Karen Billingslea (HHS), Nov. 28, 2000. Both agencies said that some data
were collected previously on an informal basis as needed.
140“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 6.
141Telephone conversation with Garland Green, telework coordinator at the Dept. of the
Treasury, Nov. 28, 2000.
142“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 12.
143This statement is based on discussions with executive and legislative branch staff who
administer programs mentioned in this report.
144“Telework Related Policy Issues,” p. 12.
the survey. This response ranked telecommuting in sixth place out of 12 places.145
The December 2000 report issued by the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of
Government Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia expressed the
desire that the goal set in January 1996 by the President’s Management Council to
have 160,000 federal employees telecommut[ing] nationwide by fiscal year 2002"
would be met or exceeded.146
Among the factors that appear to contribute to successful telework experiences
are: top management support; a clear telework agreement that includes expectations
accompanied by measurable goals; accountability and performance results; rapport
between the manager and the employee, and the temperament (of both) to be flexible
as the workload and other demands dictate; participating employees who have proven
performance records; an organizational culture that supports change, flexibility, and
creativity; proper training, equipment, and infrastructure; and initial implementation
as pilot programs or episodic arrangements.
Reservations about telework may include managerial concerns about maintaining
performance and productivity in the office or organization; the security of government
records and the use of software licensed to the government on computers at the
alternative work sites; and the availability of funding to provide necessary support for
employees to work away from the main office, while at the same time maintaining an
office at the agency.
As additional information about what factors are important to successful
telework programs becomes available, agencies may see applications for their own
employees. Further, as the infrastructure to support telework develops and if security
safeguards are enhanced, an increase in the number of telework programs may occur.
The Telework Issues Working Group may identify whether additional legislation or
guidance are needed. The newness of telework policies in the legislative branch has
some of the entities reviewing existing programs, and looking to those in the
executive branch and private industry for insights into the requirements for successful
implementation of telework.
Some believe that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, and the discovery of anthrax in Washington, DC, and other
cities have fundamentally changed the workplace and demonstrated the practical
application of telework to the continued operation of the government. Issues of
security, crisis management, disaster recovery, and remote access to office computer
systems are prompting some federal executive and legislative branch agencies and
their employees to expand existing telework programs or to consider telework,
although in many cases, how to implement telework remains unclear.
145Programs on flexible work schedule (86%), sick leave for family care (85%), compressed
work schedule (71%), employee assistance programs (54%), and leave sharing (51%) placed
higher. See: Issues of Merit, p. 5.
146The Crisis in Human Capital, p. 48.