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Will work from anywhere

July 21, 2010

Telework or remote work agreements are steadily increasing their buzz in the Washington, D.C. area. We got some help from the national capital region’s “snowcopolypse” which crippled government and kept thousands of Washington area commuters stuck in their homes. Lightbulbs went off in the minds of many who said, wait a minute – is there a reason why these people can’t get their jobs done from home? (Congress has been tossing legislation concerning telework back and forth for years, but most federal agencies have done a great job of ignoring what seems to be a congressional inclination toward allowing federal workers remote work options).

I, personally, am a huge fan of teleworking. And not for the often touted reasons of productivity or environmental savings (due to lack of commuters and cars on the road). I see telework as a key way for the federal government to become a competitive employer for today’s Y generation and the booming population of digital natives hitting the workforce.

I’ve never believed in the notion that according to work well, I need to be sitting in an office to do it. In today’s digital age there are increased opportunities to get your work done from anywhere – including your home, the local Starbucks, or a jump seat at a local office or commuter station. Working from home is one of my key job requirements, and one of about 15 reasons why I left my last job. The fact that the federal government is currently letting good (and often young) talent look elsewhere to get the flexibility they need is a key reason they need to get on board with the trend.

One often touted negative to telework agreements is the risk that employees won’t get their work done, or will find themselves watching Oprah at home rather than doing their work. As someone who’s spent some time in the federal government I always find this argument laughable – the notion that it takes a government employee to be at home to waste their workday is quite funny to me. I’ve watched federal employees not work, take two-hour lunches and otherwise waste away their workday perfectly well in an office – and I wouldn’t expect it to be any different when they were at home.

Telework actually requires federal managers to be what they should be in the first place – results focused, rather than hours focused. Telework agreements should include a clear understanding of an employee’s deliverables when it comes to getting work done outside of the office. Fortunately, social media based tools make this kind of accountability and connectivity easier than ever.

There will always be certain jobs that simply can’t be done from home. But for the most part, jobs across government, in particular, are well primed to be taken out of expensive Washington, D.C. area buildings and put into people’s living rooms. And perhaps once we get federal employees used to performing and producing results, rather than simply putting in time, we’ll actually take the steps to downsize our bloated system and increase effectiveness.

Just my thoughts – I’d love to know what you think. Work at home? How does it work for you? Think there are too many benefits to being in the office? I’d like to hear what they are.


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