This section presents the cover memo and general Telecommuting (Flexiplace) guidance which OPM developed and sent to Federal personnel directors in October 1993. This guidance applies to both work-at-home as well as telecenter programs. CONTENTS
Guidance for Alternate Workplace Arrangements
- OPM Guidelines
- Governmentwide Pilot Project
- Reasons for Telecommuting
- Basic Parameters for Telecommuting in Federal Agencies
- Conditions for Successful Telecommuting Arrangements
- Personnel Policies/Procedures
This memo confirms agency authority to utilize Flexiplace(telecommuting) arrangements. For more detailed information on any of the topics contained in the following guidance, see Section III (although focused on telecenters, the guidance in Section III also applies generally to work-at-home programs).
MEMORANDUM FOR PERSONNEL DIRECTORS
FROM: LORRAINE A. GREEN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR
Subject: Alternative Workplace Arrangements (Flexiplace)
OPM is providing information to help you set up alternativeworkplace arrangements (flexiplace) as recommended by the National Performance Review. Well-designed flexiplace programs are "family friendly" and offer many benefits to employers, employees, and society as a whole. We encourage you to offer this flexibility to employees in situations where accountability for customer service can be assured. To develop effective flexiplace programs, agencies should seek employee views and also bargain or consult, as appropriate, with unions representing affected employees.
Unless a specific statute provides otherwise, agencies have the authority to permit employees to work at locations other than the main office. Employees on flexiplace typically work at home but can work at other agency-approved locations. For example, the General Services Administration (GSA) is setting up several Interagency Telecommuting Centers in outlying areas of the Nation's Capital for Federal employees who currently travel long distances between home and work.
Attachments to this memorandum describe the reasons for flexiplace, basic parameters for its use, the conditions under which it is most likely to succeed, and the personnel policies and procedures that apply to employees on flexiplace. Also included is a sample agreement form agencies may use for employees who routinely work under flexiplace arrangements.
Other information is available from OPM's electronic bulletin board "Mainstreet." Included are materials developed for and by agencies that participated in the Flexiplace Pilot Project, for example, procedures, forms, training materials, and evaluation surveys. To read or download this information,computer users can call "Mainstreet" by dialing 202-606-4800 at up to 14.4 kbps and following the instructions to reach the Flexiplace/Telecommuting Forum. The forum also lets Federal employees share information about their experiences with alternative workplace arrangements.
If you have questions, please call GSA at 202-273-4664.
GUIDANCE FOR ALTERNATIVE WORKPLACE ARRANGEMENTS Governmentwide Pilot Project
OPM developed these guidelines based on a Governmentwideproject in which employees from 14 Federal agencies worked at locations other than their main offices. In the project responsibilities, telecommuting is not a substitute for dependent care. Employees must not use duty time for any purpose other than official duties. The Government may place Government-owned computers and telecommunications equipment in employee homes or at other alternative worksites, but the Government retains ownership of and control of hardware, software, and data. Such equipment is for official use only and its repair and maintenance are the responsibility of the agency. For more information, see GSA publications, Flexiplace: Questions and Answers on Management Issues and Flexiplace: Questions and Answers on Computer and Telephone Issues. Fax a request for these publications to 202-501-2482. Agencies may provide employees with FTS 2000 authorization cards. To the extent permitted by law, agencies may pay for the installation of telephone lines in private residences. For the past few years, the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act included an exception to the general statutory prohibition on agency installation of telephone lines in private residences. The exception covered employees who participated in the flexiplace pilot project. (See Public Law 102-506.) Conditions for Successful Telecomuting Arrangements
The Governmentwide project, as well as others in the publicand private sector, yielded information about factors that contribute to successful alternative workplace arrangements. For example:
- Policies and Procedures. Written policies and procedures often make telecommuting programs more understandable. Policies should cover short-term as well as continuing arrangements. Project coordinators facilitate the development of programs. Orientation sessions for telecommuting employees and their supervisors ensure a common understanding of program requirements.
- Nature of the Work. The nature of the work, as well as the characteristics of the employee and the supervisor, should be suitable for telecommuting. Work suitable for telecommuting depends on job content, rather than job title, type of appointment, or work schedule. For example, telecommuting is feasible for work that requires thinking and writing--data analysis, reviewing grants or cases, writing decisions or reports; for telephone-intensive tasks--setting up a conference, obtaining information, following up on participants in a study; and for computer-oriented tasks--programming, data entry, word processing. Positions in the Governmentwide project included writer/editor, scientist, investigator, psychologist, environmental engineer, budget analyst, tax examiner, and computer specialist.
- Unsuitable Work. Work may not be suitable for telecommuting if the employee needs to have extensive face-to-face contact with the supervisor, other employees, clients, or the general public; if the employee needs frequent access to material which cannot be moved from the main office; if the agency cannot provide any special facilities or equipment that are necessary; or if it would be too costly for the agency to duplicate the same level of security at the alternative workplace.
- Employee Characteristics. The characteristics of an employee are particularly important. The employee should be an organized, highly disciplined, and conscientious self-starter who requires minimal supervision. His or her perform employees working at remote sites to provide reasonable assurance that the employees are working when scheduled, for example, by determining the reasonableness of the work output for the time spent or by having the supervisor make occasional telephone calls or visits during the employee's scheduled work time. (See Title 6 of GAO's Policy and Procedures Manual for the Guidance of Federal Agencies.)
- Position Descriptions and Performance Standards.Telecommuting will seldom require major changes in position descriptions, but may affect factors such as supervisory controls or work environment. Performance standards for telecommuting employees should be results-oriented and should describe the quantity and quality of expected work products and the method of evaluation. Generally, supervisors will use the same measures for telecommuting employees and employees who perform similar tasks in the main office.
- Home Inspections. Agencies should make sure that the telecommuting employee's worksite meets acceptable standards. Some agencies in the Governmentwide project required employees to complete a self-certification safety inspection form. Onsite inspections (with adequate notice to the employee) are another option.
- Workers' Compensation. Telecommuting employees are covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) and may qualify for payment for on-the-job injury or occupational illness.
- Group Dismissal. A telecomuting employee may sometimes, but not always, be affected by an emergency requiring the main office to close. For example, on a "snow closing day," the agency should not excuse a telecommuting employee unless he or she cannot perform work because the main office is closed. When both the main office and the alternative worksite are affected by a widespread emergency, the agency should grant the telecommuting employee excused absence as appropriate. When an emergency affects only the alternative worksite for a major portion of the workday, the agency can require the telecommuting employee to report to the main office, approve annual leave or leave without pay, or authorize an excused absence.