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Telework



Interior Business Center
Teleworking—It Works

A few years ago when IBC made a concerted effort to enhance its telework program, Bob Bowles, a supervisor in IBC’s Financial Management Directorate, offered his employees the opportunity to telework.  Allowing his employees to telework was a no-brainer.  

To begin, Bob who is located in Denver, had many employees working in Northern Virginia.  He was already managing his employees remotely, so where they were doing the work was a moot point.  The work was getting done and the results could clearly been seen.

When Bob offered his employees the option to telework, he realized how beneficial this could be, particularly since many of his employees had extremely long commutes.  Bob recognized allowing his employees to telework would save hours in their weekly commutes, wear and tear on their vehicles, money on gas, and would alleviate the stress of driving.  He quickly realized this also had a direct impact on his employee’s moral and satisfaction.  It was clear telework was mutually beneficial for the employees, and the IBC. Many employees in Bob’s branch now consistently telework 3 or 4 days a week.

Although Bob embraced teleworking, it is not to say he didn’t have reservations.  But, he thought, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, and decided to give it a chance.  He was already managing his employees from a distance, so if they were working at home, how different could this be?  Bob forced himself to overcome old ways of thinking and gave teleworking a shot.

Fast forward a few years later and it has been a terrific experience for Bob and his employees.  As a manager, Bob realizes telework is a valuable tool he is able to offer his employees.  One reason telework has been successful is because from the beginning, Bob made it clear to his employees telework was a privilege and that the mission of the organization would always come first.  If there was a need to have employees in the office on a particular day, even if it was a telework day, the employees understood the priority would be coming to the office.  They appreciate the flexibility telework provides them, and have willingly accepted the business will always be the first priority.

An additional benefit of teleworking can be the reduction of real estate costs.  When staff telework, employees are able to share office space, thereby reducing the number of cubicles needed.  Teleworking has truly proven to be a win-win for everyone.

According to Richard Rizzi, BOR's Manager of the Land Resources Division in Policy and Administration, "Telework can be very effective when supervisors and employees work together to ensure success. Many of my staff telework two days every week.They work on short-term assignments or I break long term assignments into weekly components. Then I review progress weekly with my employees to address questions and measure results. Because my staff can take an assignment and focus on it while teleworking, I have noticed an increase in productivity as turnaround times are reduced."

This web site provides information on the Department of Interior’s telework program.

 

Using this web page, you can find the Department's policies by selecting the POLICIES tab at the top. You can find Training by selecting the TRAINING tab. You can also pose questions by selecting the QUESTIONS tab – we try to respond within 48 business hours.

 

The goals of the Department’s telework program are:

 

·         Provide supervisors with maximum flexibility to respond to changing work conditions;

·         Conserve nature, energy and natural resources;

·         Reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

·         Reduce the DOI space footprint;

·         Increase workforce efficiency;

·         Improve operations during emergencies, natural disasters and inclement weather;

·         Improve employee satisfaction and quality of work-life balance;

·         Enhance recruiting and retention efforts.    

 

If you have ideas, we’d like to hear from you  - send your ideas by selecting the QUESTIONS tab.

 

This web site does not have a dedicated page for frequently asked questions (FAQs).  FAQs have been incorporated into topical fact sheets which you can access by clicking on the FACT SHEETS tab above.

 

NOTE: There are no .zip files downloaded from links on this site.  If you are prompted to download a .zip file, try unchecking the dialog box when prompted, click OK, and try again.  If you are still having problems, please send details using the QUESTIONS tab above.

SUPERVISORS' EXPERIENCE WITH TELEWORK

*NEW*

FWS: Employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service, like other DOI bureaus, are scattered across an impressive variety of terrain. The Service's Mountain-Prairie Region, the second largest geographical region of the Service, is a good example: It comprises eight states in the heart of the American west, including Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Its peaks and prairies are home to some of the nation's most iconic species: grizzly bear, gray wolf, the American bison, and cutthroat trout.

The Region is a biologist's dream -- its remote field stations are ideal for getting up close and personal with the wildlife that FWS monitors and protects.Yet, while the stunning landscapes support an incredible array of wildlife and sustain many an outdoor enthusiast, many of the locations where our employees work are still too remote to support an Internet connection.

Terri Follett, a contracting officer who teleworks full time from her home in Walden, Colorado, turned this challenge into an opportunity by taking advantage of better Internet connectivity at her home to become a leader in use of this technology to not only get the job done but do it better.Some of Terri's innovations include:

·Being one of the first to seek out software capability to create digital signatures and determine which could be digitally signed.

·Pursuing scanning technology to convert large purchase orders to .pdf files and optimize their file size for easy transmission to contractors and receiving offices.

·Becoming very skilled at organizing electronic files as well. Implementing FBMS required that Service Contracting Officers include all of the relevant invoices and receiving documents into their contract files. Again, Terri advocated for electronically scanning and uploading these documents in FBMS so all of the users can have access to the documents and not rely on e-mailing documents to multiple users. Now, all employees know where the documents should be stored as attachments in FBMS and can all go to that location and get what they need for their jobs...whether they are Budget Specialists, Receiving Officers or a Property Managers.

·Creating a level of electronic organization is so high and a work environment so efficient that she has instant access to specific guidance and topics, enabling her to quickly answer questions or provide information to customers.

·Finally, it snows ALOT in Walden, and Terri hasn't missed any work days because of inclement weather!

Terri's supervisor, Greg Moore, strongly supports her telework."Terri is one of our hardest-working Contracting Officers—in FY12, she processed and awarded the most contracting actions of anyone in the office. While I believe Terri's can-do attitude is attributable to her work ethic and genuine desire to support her acquisition customers' needs, I also believe her ability to telework and save travel time to and from work reduces stress in her work day, and has increased her morale and overall job satisfaction-- which directly translates into better employee productivity for her organization.

An added benefit that I have seen from Terri's telework situation is that she has been on the cutting edge of bringing technology advances to the workplace with regard to digital signatures, electronic scanning and filing of documents to reduce the large quantities of paper and files that we maintain, and being vigilant to apply records retention to files that are related to her work."

FWS - Telework

Photo Caption:  Dolores Savignano talking with youngsters at HQ pollinator garden at Mt. Eagle Elementary School.  Photo Credit:  USFWS Rosanne Ruvolo

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee Dolores Savignano has been coordinating climate change activities in the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, as well as pollinator conservation and education for the Service, for several years. She is committed to doing her part in reducing her carbon footprint by making telework an effective way to conduct daily Service business. By reducing the number of trips each week, Dolores goes even further by taking mass transit whenever she comes into the office.

Organized for Telework
Much of Dolores' role in climate change and pollinator conservation and education involves working with the Service's Regions, Field Offices, and external partners. Still, Dolores successfully manages her varying responsibilities and venues required to perform her coordination role while teleworking three or more days a week. For those occasions where her work requires her to directly interact with her fellow employees in FAC or other staff at Headquarters, Dolores regularly schedules time to conduct the necessary face-to-face interactions.

Using Available Technology
Advancements made by the Service with the VPN and other communication devices provide Dolores ready-access to required Service files and personnel. She communicates frequently with her supervisor, creating an effective interface from her telework location and the HQ FAC office. This effective and "eco-friendly" teleworking model set by Dolores is a terrific approach for conducting business in the metropolitan DC area, and could be easily replicated to work successfully almost anywhere across the country.

Supervisor's Perspective
Jeff Underwood, Dolores' supervisor, strongly supports her telework. "(Delores) sets the great example for what I see as an ideal teleworker. She is a reliable employee, productive, and communicates frequently via email and when necessary, by phone. As a manager, unless you routinely walk around and check with all employees, one never knows when each individual arrives or departs during the day. Despite the fact Dolores is not in the office, communications are often times better than when employees are sitting in the office down the hall. Her interactions with colleagues, peers, and associates do not seem to be hampered by the teleworking and when face-to-face meetings are needed she either adjusts her schedule to accommodate those meetings or schedules them for the times when she is in the office. Dolores is productive as a teleworker and is a premier example of what teleworking is and the benefits that come with it. Just being present in an office during the day does not guarantee productivity -- teleworking is a benefit to the employee and the employer. Dolores demonstrates that teleworking is not only plausible; she has shown how well it can work."

BLM: Our Washington Office staff relies heavily on teleworking opportunities as making good business sense. We have most of the staff engaged with laptops, with generally 1-2 days a week staying home to conduct business. Most of our meetings are by telephone, we also have 1/3 of our staff scattered across the West anyway, so it keeps our office virtual.  Projects are often contributed simultaneously as staff work from different locations, and adjust their schedules accordingly. A huge benefit to the public is that staff is able to block their time to focus on projects more efficiently; they often tend to be extremely responsive as they appreciate the savings not spent commuting or lost in traffic lines. Another benefit to the public is that during inclement weather where it may take hours to reach home, the staff is able to function seamlessly and safely without trying to commute. Telework is a timesaver, money saver, boosts morale, recharges the mind and body with less commute time, and encourages professionals to empower themselves in time management, taking pride in their products.

Steven Wells, Division Chief, Fluid Minerals,Bureau of Land Management

OCR: When you think about the Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), your first thought is….telework of course! Over the last two years, OCR, under the leadership of Sharon D. Eller, has been expanding the use of telework. During the week of April 15th, 2013, every one of the OCR staff, including Ms. Eller, teleworked at least one day, which as it turns out, is not so unusual. As Ms. Eller explains, "all of my employees have telework agreements and telework at least one day per week." OCR is also hosting two employees as part of the President's Management Council Career Development Program, and as part of their experience, OCR staff encouraged them to telework.Both employees are now sold on the benefits of telework.

While employees reduce their commuting time, according to Ms. Eller, productivity markedly increases when her employees telework. Ms. Eller explains that much of OCR's work is very amenable to working away from the main office – writing reports, preparing Final Agency Decisions, developing policy, and researching complaints. Her employees report they are more productive because of less interruptions and a quieter working environment.

Employees talk with their supervisor before they telework and agree on specific deliverables. Ms. Eller used the Department's Risk Analysis process outlined in the Department's Telework Handbook and decided that employees would not be allowed to remove paper case files from the office. However, her employees use laptop computers to access electronic files through DOI's Virtual Private Network while teleworking. She also used the same Risk Analysis process, and determined that employees can take notes from interviews home where the notes are prepared for inclusion in a case file upon their return. OCR has found that clients can easily be supported from telework locations. Office telephones can be placed on call-forwarding to an employee's home telephone number (or cellular telephone), and callers are unaware that the employee is not in the office.

Ms. Eller also reported that the use of telework allows her to maximize the use of flexible work schedules and continue to operate during inclement weather.OCR's Washington, D.C-based employees live as far west as West Virginia and as far east as the Maryland Eastern Shore. So weather conditions for employees on any given day can vary widely.With one hundred percent (100%) of her employees on telework agreements, she has the flexibility to allow some employees to telework due to inclement weather, poor road conditions, traffic problems or bridge closures, while others can still travel to the office.

Because of OCR's success with telework – increased productivity, functional technology, responsible employees, appropriate management controls and increased employee satisfaction and engagement, employees are being allowed to increase their routine telework from one day, to two days per week.

If you have questions about the OCR telework program or how you can achieve the same success as Sharon D. Eller, you can reach her through e-mail at sharon_eller@ios.doi.gov.

USGS: I supervise 2 teams of employees that are located in 4 primary offices across the country.  All of my employees are eligible for telework and most have telework agreements and telework 1-2 days a week.  I have 5 employees that telework 100% of the time from their homes in locations significantly separated from the 4 primary offices.  Because we are national teams, our physical location in the office or at home is irrelevant since we are accustomed to working remotely with each other both in the primary offices and at our telework locations. Telework has allowed me to retain employees with tremendous experience and knowledge who would have left our organization without the benefit of telework, reduced our space requirements, and improved moral by providing flexibility to meet professional and personal commitments.

Cathleen Smith, USGS, Chief, Employee/Labor Relations and Benefits Teams

ONRR: As an employee and a supervisor, I really appreciate the Department of the Interior's commitment to telework.  From my experience, telework increases productivity by providing employees with an opportunity to focus on particular projects and assignments, improves employee health and wellness by supporting a greater work-life balance, and provides flexibility for the organization to adapt to changing priorities and stakeholder expectations.  The technology that is available allows employees to work remotely (or virtually) from their desk, a conference room, their home office, or an airport terminal.  In an emergency situation, such as inclement weather, teleworking helps ensure that employees can do their jobs and stay safe.  By embracing telework, and other work-life benefits, my message to my employees is that, "I value your contributions to the organization and I value you as person."   When implemented effectively, telework promotes trust, accountability and communication within an office.   For the Department, promoting telework will help Interior recruit and retain the best employees and ensure that we remain a competitive, employer of choice within the Federal government. 

Jennifer L. Goldblatt, Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Chief of Staff

OSM: As supervisor of Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Division of Compliance Management (DCM) auditors, my employees began working at home on a part-time basis, completing work papers and writing audit reports at the conclusion of their audit field work. My division has lent itself to the ideal successful implementation of telecommuting.Auditing relies on employees working independently for much of their work so they are accustomed to being self-starters.Employee performance is measured by the quality and quantity of products generated, such as audit reports. Through attrition, the number of employees in my division declined in many area offices.In some cases, only one auditor remained in an office.

Because of the success of the part-time telecommuting initiative, I made the decision to close offices and some auditors began telecommuting full time.As the continuing success of these arrangements became evident, other employees asked to participate, resulting in my closure of additional offices.My division now has 21 telecommuters working full-time from their homes.The few additional costs for cell phones, etc. cannot compare to the overall savings.

Overall, productivity in my division has remained very high. In addition to the intangible benefits afforded by telework, my division has realized substantial cost savings, in excess of $160,000 per year, as a result of fully embracing telework.I have been successful in leveraging technology to create a paperless working environment and that fact, combined with telework success, enabled my division to win the coveted DOI Green Award in 2011.

Jane Gray, Office of Surface Mining, Division of Compliance Management

OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: According to the results of a survey on telework conducted at Interior last year, one of the greatest barriers to using telework is a lack of supervisory support. Obviously, supervisors know best the requirements for the work and the ability of an employee to work successfully in a telework environment. But, too often, we hear that supervisors simply have a negative opinion of telework and are concerned about losing sight of what their employees are doing. Other supervisory perceptions are that telework is "all or nothing" or that supervisors lose having a say once telework is implemented. Here is one supervisor's story about how he changed his perspective and successfully implemented telework.

When Larry Broun, Director of the Department's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was first introduced to telework, his first reaction, like many supervisors, was that positions in OEM were not suitable for telework. The mission requires in-house coverage 24 hours a days, seven days a week, and the work includes frequent attendance at interagency meetings. Also, many OEM employees regularly work with classified information and systems, and as a result, requests for telework were routinely denied. "I just couldn't reconcile using telework with a mission like ours," said Broun.

In the Spring of 2012, Interior created an executive level telework steering committee composed of senior leaders from various functional areas including Larry. The purpose of the committee is to provide input and perspective on telework as a viable management tool and to help with overcoming barriers to implementation, as well as contributing to the refinement of telework guidance based on experience over time. During monthly meetings of the steering committee, Larry participated in a number of conversations about the value of telework and the challenges with implementation. It's fair to say that in the beginning, Larry was not a fan of telework, but over the past year, his perspective changed.

Larry began to carefully consider the various tasks performed not only by OEM, but by others throughout the department during snowstorms, disasters and other emergencies. While he concluded that duty officers in the operations center were performing duties that were not suitable for telework, other members of the workforce were performing tasks that were suitable for some form of telework. In fact, after further consideration, it became apparent that in certain situations, telework could enhance the ability to meet his office's mission requirements.

One important function of OEM is the development of policies and plans. By implementing situational telework agreements, Larry found that staff could increase productivity in preparing such documents by blocking time to complete complex writing and editing activities while teleworking. The experiences from these teleworking experiences raised employees' confidence in their ability to use systems and access network services to support the essential work of the office during emergency situations. Examples of such emergencies include:

·During health emergencies such as pandemic influenza or other infectious diseases, "social distancing" between employees is extremely important. The use of telework is an important tool in ensuring productivity and continuity of operations without exposing employees who may be contagious to others in an office situation.

·During snow and inclement weather, the on-site OEM operations staff can be supplemented by other OEM employees who are teleworking. While a cadre of emergency workers need to be present in the OEM operations center, for others, avoiding the need to travel in poor weather heightens safety and reduces congestion on gridlocked roads.

·During catastrophic disasters or terrorist events, only certain designated Emergency Employees may be asked to report to work. Members of "Continuity of Operations" teams can reach out for technical advice and assistance from colleagues who have situational telework agreements in place; these employees can support the vital work of the Department while working from their homes or other areas removed from harm's way.

Like many leaders, Larry's initial reluctance was fueled by the thought that telework would degrade OEM's capacity to bring resources to bear during emergency situations. After defining which positions in the organization where not suitable for telework, it became apparent that telework is a tool managers can use to enhance mission performance, improve morale, and provide additional resources to support emergency operations. Recognizing the value of situational telework, Larry also became open to considering requests for regular telework. Key to the decision process is recognition that managers determine whether or not positions and people are suitable for telework and managers can take into account issues such as office coverage and customer service requirements when permitting employees to telework. "Once I looked closely at the various tasks performed in the office, I realized that telework was a viable option for some activities," said Broun. "My comfort level with using telework increased as I focused more on the work that needed to be done and less on the notion that telework and emergency management were incompatible."

Any supervisor can use the same approach that Larry used to bring telework into the leadership toolbox:

·Recognize that managers decide when telework is appropriate and have the authority to make changes, if it isn't working as expected.

·Tailor teleworking arrangements for individual work sections or positions. Implementing telework is not an all-or-nothing arrangement. Consider how a unit functions and make sure that implicit relationships between workers are accounted for during telework situations. For example, establish ground rules and expectations for accessibility to others, timeliness in getting back to colleagues, and work hours. Modify as you go, if needed.

·Use technology to replace physical proximity. Bison Connect provides tools like secure document management and instant messaging that can facilitate collaboration and maintain contact while teleworking.

·Try allowing telework on a temporary or limited basis to see how to best manage employee performance.

·Focus on what needs to be done by when and not on whether an employee is visible in the office.

·Implement situational telework when office coverage or other duties prohibit routine absences from the office.

·Consider the benefits of having telework agreements in place when the office must perform vital functions during weather emergencies or disasters.

Do you have a story about how you've used telework successfully in your office? Tell us about the barriers you've overcome and how you're using telework as a management tool. We want to share your stories to help managers learn how telework can support the accomplishment of the mission in a variety of ways. Tell us, too, if you're having difficulties and we'll see if we can offer you some ideas for your consideration. Send your information and questions to Ralph Charlip at ralph_charlip@ios.doi.gov.