The Alternative Work Schedules Experiment:

Congressional Oversight Needed To Avoid Likely Failure

FPCD-81-2: Published: Nov 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1980.

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Federal employees are participating in a nationwide voluntary experiment to determine the effects of alternative work schedules (AWS) and to determine whether, and in what situations, the Federal Government can successfully use them. The experiment was authorized by the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act, which requires the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to assess the positive and negative effects of alternative work schedules. Congress authorized the use of alternative work schedules with the intent that OPM carefully design, control, and evaluate an experimental program.

OPM has not carried out the congressional mandate. For fiscal year 1980, Congress funded less than one-half of the OPM budget request for the work schedules project. Because OPM did not receive the funding requested and did not internally reallocate the additional funds necessary, it eliminated some tasks and reduced the scope of others. Because OPM has not carried out these tasks, it lacks the degree of control needed to carefully manage and evaluate the experiment.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should hold oversight hearings on the status and adequacy of AWS implementation and evaluation. In conducting this oversight, Congress should consider the (1) need for, and costs and benefits associated with, modifying the existing master plan or developing a new one; (2) necessity for extending the three year experiment; and (3) desirability of establishing a joint executive agency task force to redesign and execute the master plan and to provide the needed experimental control.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider the desirability and need for (1) using scientific sampling procedures which would allow findings and conclusions to be projected to the overall Federal work force; (2) analyzing multiple variables which may affect AWS impact and adjusting for variables which affect the results; (3) gathering public views about AWS and its effects on the degree and quality of the Federal Government's service to the public. Such consideration should include comparing public views with those using and not using AWS; and (4) establishing a "true" scientific experiment in which program design is carefully controlled, units are randomly assigned to program formats and to a control condition, and standardized data is collected on the effectiveness of the program.

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should assess the current master plan and must agree on the (1) specific evaluation objectives; (2) criteria for measuring attainment of those objectives; (3) costs and benefits of various experimental approaches; and (4) desired levels of precision and confidence.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should make a concentrated effort to correct the deficiencies affecting the AWS experiment. It is essential that accurate information be developed on such things as the actual number of employees using alternative work schedules, the number of experiments being conducted, the number of different types of work schedules being used, and the number of employees using each type of schedule.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should review a sample of work schedule plans to detect errors and to identify different design and implementation methods and variables which affect AWS results.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should reassess OPM's priorities and, to the extent possible, reallocate internal budgeted funds to the AWS Program Office if additional funds and personnel are need to detect errors and identify different design and implementation methods and variables.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should assess the current master plan and agree on the (1) specific evaluation objectives;, (2) criteria for measuring attainment of those objectives; (3) costs and benefits of varioius experimental designs and analytical approaches; and (4) desired levels of precision and confidence.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should consider the desirability and need for (1) using scientific sampling procedures which would allow findings and conclusions to be projected to the overall Federal work force; (2) analyzing multiple variables which may affect AWS impact and adjusting for variables which affect the results; (3) gathering public views about AWS and its effects on the degree and quality of the Federal Government's service to the public. Such consideration should include comparing public views with those using and not using AWS; and (4) establishing a "true" scientific experiment in which program design is carefully controlled, units are randomly assigned to program formats and to a control condition, and standardized data is collected on the effectiveness of the program.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should, to the degree possible, reallocate internal funds to the AWS Program Office so additional experienced staff with the necessary qualifications can assist in redesigning and executing the master plan.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should, to the extent that features of OPM's current evaluation approach are incorporated in any new plan, in a longitudinal and cross-sectional study (1) eliminate the current employee and supervisor questionnaire which is being administered four times during the experiment; (2) design a new questionnaire which could specifically address the AWS experiences of employees, supervisors, and managers; individual reactions to AWS; and self-reported changes in the individual behavior which resulted from AWS; (3) incorporate two open-ended questions in the questionnaire asking respondents to describe the most positive and negative aspects of AWS; and (4) obtain responses from both users and nonusers of AWS. Onsite studies should be conducted to (1) include agencies or work units which are more representative of some of the larger segments of the Federal work force; (2) standardize the format for case studies to a degree so that results can be compared; and (3) consider using outside contractors to conduct some of the case studies to determine how AWS was implemented, the reactions of employees and management, and the changes in operations, employee routines, and unit output. The Director of OPM should direct that narrative reports be produced (1) requiring that a sample of work units prepare their reports about one year after they begin their AWS experiments; (2) monitoring the work units' data collection; and (3) determining the approach for reviewing and analyzing the reports as soon as possible. A special energy study should be conducted including an assessment of (1) how AWS has affected individuals' modes of transportation, vehicle usage, and ability to use public mass transit; and (2) how the availability of mass transit affects individuals' abilities to use AWS or to exercise maximum AWS flexibility.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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