Tracking and measuring success of government telework programs is proving to be a difficult task for the Office of Personnel Management
The Government Accountability Office’s newly released report analyzed OPM’s 2012 status of telework in the federal government, examining the progress of federal agencies’ telework programs and OPM’s ability collect that data. The conclusion: Both agencies and OPM still have much room for improvement.
GAO’s analysis is based on OPM’s 2012 report to Congress and OPM’s reporting requirements in the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. The analysis found OPM partially reported on two of the seven reporting requirements instituted by the act. Furthermore, less than half of federal agencies (47 percent) had established numeric participation goals for telework progress; 22 percent gave descriptive participation goals, and 31 percent did not give participation goals at all.
Yvonne Jones, GAO’s director of strategic issues, said until OPM demonstrates it has developed a reliable tracking method for telework data, “OPM cannot be confident that it will be in a position to report reliable data in 2015 as it intends.”
According to OPM’s report, several agency officials reported the cost of implementing information technology solutions to increase telework was a challenge, particularly the cost of software licensing. One official said during Hurricane Sandy, the agency didn’t have enough software licenses for all teleworking employees, and obtaining the licenses was very costly to the agency.
The report said the “requirements of the act put in place the elements of a new system of accountability that will enable improved oversight of agency implementation of telework programs.” However, it also noted it “remains uncertain when full compliance with the act’s reporting requirements will be achieved.”
OPM’s report found many agencies don’t have the ability within their systems to collect the participation and frequency data the act requires. They also lack guidance on a timeline for completion, as one has not yet been established.
“Without a timetable for completion and agreement of stakeholders affected by this strategy, there is no assurance OPM’s efforts will achieve the telework data collection system it needs or that an alternative collection and reporting strategy will be developed,” the report stated.
For its next report, GAO recommended OPM provide goal-setting assistance for agencies unable to track their goal progress themselves. It also recommended the 2014 report to Congress should include the amount of cost savings resulting from telework, and also how they came to those results.