Federal Managers Slow to Embrace Telecommuting

January 24, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Federal managers have so far been reluctant to accept telecommuting as an alternative work situation for their employees, mostly because they fear a drop in productivity and a loss of face-to-face contact and control over workers, according to a recent study.

The study “Face-to-Face with Management Reality” based on an online survey of 214 federal managers showed that 32% of managers rated lack of face-to-face contact as the greatest challenge to telecommuting and mangers ranked fear of not having control over employees and productivity issues as other top inhibitors to telecommuting.

Sixty-one percent of managers have misinterpreted their co-workers’ e-mails as a result of telecommuting and 43% of managers say they have misinterpreted co-workers via the phone.

“The study highlights the disconnect between the perception of telework and the practicality of telework,” said Darryl Perkinson, national president, Federal Managers Association, in a news release about the study. “While funding seems to be the least impediment, managers must find a balance between performance output and employee supervision before agencies can fully realize the benefits of telework.”

Currently, 35% of federal managers say their agencies support the practice and 47% say their agencies do not.

Managers say the greatest drivers to adopting telecommuting are a need to balance life and work and a recruitment and retention method.

Managers who become more exposed to or involved in telecommuting themselves are more inclined to allow their employees to do the same. Fifty-four percent of managers who do not manage telecommuters have a favorable attitude toward the practice while 63% of managers who manage telecommuters favor the practice and 75% of managers who telecommute themselves have a favorable attitude.

The study was underwritten by TANDBERG, which provides visual communication products and services and includes responses from managers in more than 45 federal agencies.

A free registration is required to download the full results of the study at www.teleworkexchange.com/managementstudy .