Is Hurricane Sandy the Catalyst for Telework?

The Office of Personnel Management estimates that one-third of the almost 300,000 federal employees, including emergency staff in the DC metro area telework when government buildings are closed because of weather. That's a huge increase from the 8% of federal employees who telework on a weekly basis. So could Hurricane Sandy and super storms like her be the catalyst that would finally ramp up federal teleworking? Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He told me on the DorobekINSIDER program that it's encouraging how many people were able to telework during the storm. Preparing for Telework -- During a Natural Disaster Leaders
  • It's best to have already tried out teleworking before a disaster. Give folks periodic telework or just one day to try and fix some of the kinks. Find out what can and what can't be done from home. It's also good to make sure they can remotely access their email and drives from home.
  • Think intentionally about what it takes to supervise teleworkers. It's easier when they are in the office to know what they are working on and when they are working on it. But anymore people are using mobile desktops to work anywhere, anytime so you have to prepare for that.
  • Give people a heads up when you can. Make sure they bring home the necessary paperwork and equipment before a big storm.
  • Request the opportunity to telework on occasion. That way you can prove success before a major event like a hurricane.
  • You need to figure out how you can best communicate while you are teleworking with your supervisor.
  • Make sure you take all you need with you, cannot always rely on modern technology say if the power goes out. Make sure you have hard copies.
Is Sandy a Telework Spring Board? "If you were able to successfully telework during the storm it does help to build the business case for the broader use of telework. You just need to be able to demonstrate continued or improved performance. It's hard to argue with those types of facts," said Fox. Don't Want to Be Out of Sight/Out of Mind "The key is to ensure that you are proactively communicating results and goals to your supervisors. Don't wait for your supervisor to initiate a conversation," said Fox. Lesson Learned from Sandy "It is great to use these events as learning opportunities. DC was fairly well prepared for Sandy. And so did New Jersey and New York. But when you look at the devastation, it's important to take not only lessons learned about telework but also about emergency management and communication. It's important to take 30 minutes and figure out what worked really well and what didn't," said Fox.
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