Federal Survey: Telecommuting Flexibility Helps Workers

February 22, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The federal government's teleworking policies help employees responsible for the care of children or aging parents have the flexibility they need to improve their job performance.

That was a key finding of a recent survey by the US General Services Administration, which reported that allowing home-based work arrangements to assist with dependent care situations has helped agencies attract and retain talented employees, according to govexec.com. But policies and managers’ perceptions of the work arrangement create “an atmosphere of suspicion and sensitivity,” limiting its use, the report on the survey results said.

The report recommended a government-wide effort to clarify the role that telework can play in helping employees juggle work and home responsibilities and to promote the establishment of policies specifically addressing employees’ use of telework in dependent care situations.

More than 90% of the 863 dependent-responsible federal employees included in the survey said telework helps them handle emergencies and transportation duties associated with dependent care. Another six in 10 said telework enhanced their job performance, improved morale and reduced stress.

But the GSA study also found that agency managers have expressed concern that employees with dependent care responsibilities will be distracted if they are working from home. Policies forbidding such employees from teleworking have been implemented at various agencies, the study said.

“An enduring policy mantra has been in place: Telework is not a substitute for dependent care,” the study said.

The results of the survey, which covered 27 agencies, were released earlier this month in the preliminary report. Nearly 75% of the respondents were female, ranging from 31 to 59 years old. More than 80% of the surveyed employees’ dependents were children.