House Passes Telework Bill

 The 290-131 vote sends the matter to the Senate.
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A bill to move the federal government toward more comprehensive use of telework passed the U.S. House Wednesday. The 290-131 vote sends the matter to the Senate.

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Rep. John Sarbanes The Telework Improvements Act of 2010, sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., aims to expand telework opportunities for all federal workers, allowing employees to perform their duties from home or another work site removed from their regular place of employment. Sarbanes had cited the loss of productivity during the February blizzards in the Washington area--losses mitigated somewhat by those who could work from home--in introducing the legislation.

“I believe this legislation is necessary so that a formal telework policy can be enacted across the federal government and sustained into future administrations,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “A robust telework program will not only improve government operations during a disaster, it could be used as a tool to reduce traffic congestion in the D.C. area. Telework has a positive impact on productivity, quality of life and the environment. If fully integrated, it can save taxpayers money by increasing efficiency, reducing federal office space and improving employee retention.”

The government lost $71 million worth of productivity for each day it remained closed during the "Snowmaggeddon" blizzards, according to an updated estimate released by the Office of Personnel Management. This estimate was reduced from a projected loss of $100 million per day because roughly 30 percent of federal workers in the Washington area teleworked during the storm, according to OPM.

“Telework can be a great way to increase worker productivity, reduce traffic congestion, and protect the environment. This legislation will help the federal government make telework a priority when it is appropriate. It just makes sense,” said Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would:

?• Instruct the Office of Personnel Management to develop a uniform, government-wide telework policy for federal employees;
?• Strengthen the federal government’s capacity to effectively integrate telework into Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP);
?• Designate one person as a Telework Managing Officer within every agency;
?• Provide telework training and education to both employees and supervisors;
?• Require the Office of Personnel Management to compile government-wide data on telework; and
?• Require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate agency compliance and produce an annual report to Congress that is publicly available on the Internet.

For an example of a federal telework program (in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) that's been honored for its effectiveness, click here.

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