Govexec.com said a new OPM report showed 119,248 federal government teleworkers in 2005 – down from 140,694 in 2004.
However, according to the news report, the problem is statistically trying to compare apples and oranges. For the latest report, OPM only measured teleworkers who work from home once a month or more while the data from earlier studies included people who only telecommuted as infrequently as a once a year.
Federal personnel officials said the stricter definition used in the latest look at teleworking trends provides a “better indicator of telework program implementation.”
Of the 119,248 people who counted as teleworkers under the new definition, 60% teleworked “frequently,” or at least once a week in 2005, an increase of 1,300 since 2004, according to govexec.com.
The latest report also assumed all federal employees would be eligible for telework except those who work with sensitive materials or whose performance has recently been reported as substandard. According to the news report, that made 70% percent of federal workers qualified for telework in 2005, compared to the 41% percent permitted to telework the year before.
OPM relied on agency data to compile the report. The govexec.com news report said the data shows that 78% of federal agencies track most of their teleworkers by how many telework agreements have been signed. The problem, according to the news report, is that there is not a way to track whether employees who sign up actually work from home.
OPM’s results also reveal that telework is more popular at certain agencies. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts had telework participation rates of more than 35%. Among the larger agencies, the Commerce Department had 11,491 employees, or 34.1% of those eligible, teleworking. Of those, 7,268, or about 63%, spent at least three days a week away from the office.
Federal teleworkers have a variety of different salaries, the OPM data showed. Telework was most popular among General Schedule grades 12-14, or those who earn $56,301 to $102,848 a year.
The OPM report is here .