GAO Pushing Telework for Government Employees

Under pressure from Rep. Frank Wolf, until last week my Congressman, GAO is forcing government agencies to put explain why employees should not be given the option to telecommute.

GAO: Agencies must define ‘eligible teleworkers’ (Government Executive, 4 OCT)

To increase the number of teleworkers in federal agencies, Congress should promote a consistent definition governing which employees are qualified to work away from the office, the Government Accountability Office recently recommended.

In a report to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., GAO found that certain categories of employees at the departments of Commerce, Justice and State were not eligible to work away from the office because of the positions they held. But GAO auditors found that all positions at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Small Business Administration were eligible for telework.

The review (GAO-05-1055R) is the result of a provision in the fiscal 2005 appropriations bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State, the federal judiciary and its related agencies to make telework available to 100 percent of the eligible workforce.

A commendable project but, sadly, one that is almost sure to fail. While telecommuting makes great sense, especially for those of us in highly conjested metropolitan areas, managers want to be able to eyeball their workers and “manage by walking around.” Until leadership gets comfortable simply assigning tasks and holding people accountable for their timely completion, they will insist that they can’t get by without the physical presence of workers. This is especially true of bad managers, who love to hold endless meetings.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Uncategorized, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sneem says:

    I spent over 20 years in federal service. It is hard enough to get many of the hourly workers to function effectively as it is. Let them stay home and pretend to be working? Its a license to steal.

  2. Sneem,

    That’s why you limit it to very well defined deliverables.

  3. david says:

    Very few managers practice “mamagement by waling around” as it was once practiced by HP. If they did there would be much less alienation.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Nay, sir!

    While working at State Dept. in DC, 1998-2000, my office had a fairly generous telecommuting program. About two-thirds of the staff telecommuted either three or four days a week. Senior managers (of a certain type) wanted in-office time for them to make sure everyone was moving in the same direction. Line managers were more at ease.

    There were controls to make sure that people were producing from home and some were reprimanded for abuse, taken off the program, or both. Bureaucratic problems arose–like long-distance phone charges (a lot of people live outside the Beltway, amazingly enough!)–but those mostly got solved.

    The only ones not eligible to take part in the program were the managers. That was not necessarily a good thing, but it was a bureaucratic thing.