Federal Telework:

Office of Personnel Management's 2012 Telework Report Shows Opportunities for Improvement

GAO-13-298R: Published: Jun 28, 2013. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2013.

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Yvonne D. Jones
(202) 512-6806
jonesy@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) partially reported on two of the seven reporting requirements of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, but did not report agency information for the five remaining requirements. This was because insufficient time had elapsed for all requirements of the act to be fully implemented and because agencies appeared to face challenges in measuring outcomes for some nonparticipation goals, according to OPM.

OPM recognizes weaknesses in agency sources for telework participation and frequency data, but has not taken adequate steps to establish a completion date by which agencies will produce reliable data from employee time and attendance tracking systems, which OPM defines as the most reliable tracking method.

The small agency discussion group reported telework challenges similar to those expressed by officials from larger agencies. These challenges include management resistance and technology limitations. In addition, officials from small agencies expressed particular concerns about office impacts when a teleworking employee has no backup in the workplace and about the limited funding available for information technology to support telework.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires OPM to submit an annual report to Congress addressing the telework program of each executive agency. The act also required GAO to review OPM’s first report and submit a report to Congress on the progress each executive agency has made towards the goals established under the act.

To conduct this work, GAO reviewed OPM’s reporting requirements in the act, OPM’s 2012 report to Congress, and related documentation. GAO also interviewed OPM officials responsible for overseeing the report and held a discussion group with a random sample of members of the Small Agency Human Resources Council.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that OPM (1) in preparation for the 2014 telework report should provide goal setting assistance for agencies not yet able to report telework goals, including agencies which intend to establish non-participation goals but are not yet able to report on these goals. OPM should request in its data call that each of these agencies report by what year the agency will be able to report its goals, including each agency's timetable for complete reporting and the status of action steps and milestones they established to gauge progress; (2) include in its 2014 report to Congress the amount of cost savings resulting from the impacts of telework each agency may have identified, and the method the agency used to assess or verify the savings; and (3) improve the reliability of data collection by working with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council and its leadership to develop documented agreements and a timetable to complete an automated tracking system or other reliable data gathering method that can be validated by OPM.

In summary, OPM partially concurred with our first recommendation, concurred with our second recommendation, and stated it has completed our third recommendation.

For more information, contact Yvonne D Jones at (202) 512-6806 or jonesy@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM has taken numerous steps to implement this recommendation. For example, in its 2014 Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report to Congress, which OPM released in November 2015, OPM mentioned it provides training on an ongoing basis to agencies for goal-setting, measurement, and evaluation using both group trainings and individual consultations. In this same report, OPM noted that in response to a GAO recommendation, it included in its 2013 data call a document outlining standards for goal-setting and assessment for agencies to use as a guide. OPM said the standards document provides agencies with guidelines and examples for setting goals, establishing measures and metrics to use in tracking progress, and for describing/utilizing methods to evaluate goal achievement. Additionally, OPM added an appendix to each of its data calls beginning in 2013 to assist agencies establish standards for setting and evaluating telework program goals. Finally, to help agencies which intend to establish nonparticipation goals but are not yet able to report on these goals, in its 2016 telework data call, OPM asked agencies who stated they were planning to achieve cost savings for telework when they will be able to report on those.

    Recommendation: In preparation for the 2014 telework report, OPM should provide goal setting assistance for agencies not yet able to report telework goals, including agencies which intend to establish nonparticipation goals but are not yet able to report on these goals. OPM should request in its data call that each of these agencies report by what year the agency will be able to report its goals, including each agency's timetable for complete reporting and the status of action steps and milestones they established to gauge progress.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its 2014 Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report to Congress, OPM used agencies' responses from the 2013 data call to report both the amount of cost savings resulting from the impact of telework each agency had identified and the method the agency used to determine and assess the savings.

    Recommendation: OPM should include in its 2014 report to Congress the amount of cost savings resulting from the impacts of telework each agency may have identified, and the method the agency used to assess or verify the savings.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM has taken multiple actions to implement this recommendation. OPM has worked with the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council to begin developing reliable telework data. In August 2016, OPM officials told us that they worked with agencies to develop a process and timeline for implementing an automated data tracking system in 2017. OPM will report on telework using this data in its 2018 annual Telework Report to Congress. OPM officials have also briefed the CHCO Council on automating telework data collection and released a memo updating agencies on federal telework data collection efforts which noted it was providing agencies with reports summarizing their agency's data for a single pay period using telework data from OPM's Enterprise Human Resource Integration Data Warehouse. Furthermore, OPM has developed a timetable of next steps and target dates for using and reporting automated telework data collection through September 2018.

    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of data collection, OPM should work with the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council and its leadership to develop documented agreements and a timetable to complete an automated tracking system or other reliable data gathering method that can be validated by OPM.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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