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Questions and Answers on Telework
Q-1 What is telecommuting?
A. This is the Telework Program option that provides employees the opportunity to work part of the workweek at the employee's home or another alternative work site. Working at an alternative work site is called telecommuting and such workers are called telecommuters.
Q-2 What types of jobs or tasks are adaptable to telecommuting?
A. Generally, any job that has tasks which are portable and can be performed away from the main work site. The telecommuter and the supervisor can determine which specific tasks are adaptable to telecommuting.
Q-3 What are the benefits of telecommuting?
A. There are many general benefits and there are benefits that will be specific to your organization and staff. Some examples might be:
  • Improvements in employee morale and effectiveness.
  • Reductions in transportation costs including car insurance, maintenance, and wear.
  • Retention of skilled employees and reduction in turnover due in part to increased job satisfaction.
  • Reduction in automobile-created air pollution and traffic congestion.
  • Potential for increased productivity.
  • Fewer non-business interruptions.
Q-4 Does an employee have a right to be a telecommuter?
A. No. However, management will determine the appropriateness of an employee’s participation in the Telework Program based on the employee’s representation (i.e, readiness for telecommuting); and the manager’s determination that the position is one that is suitable for off site work. Accordingly, if there is a change in supervisor, the new supervisor has the option to review an employee’s continuation in the Program.
Q-5 Can a supervisor participate in the Telework program?
A. Yes. All employees in positions with duties that are conducive to telework are eligible to participate in the telework program, with the exception of summer or seasonal employees.
Q-6 Who is liable for work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternate work site?
A. The Government. Government employees suffering work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternate work site are covered under the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, or the Federal Employees Compensation Act (workers compensation).
Q-7 What should a manager consider before agreeing to a telecommuting arrangement?
A. The manager and worker should examine the job requirements and determine what tasks can be accomplished at an alternate worksite. Additionally, the manager should determine
  • if the employee has the skill and knowledge of the job to work at the alternate site;
  • if the employee needs work-related input or support that is only available at the main office;
  • the equipment and related cost necessary to support an alternate worksite;
  • how the employee can meet the requirements of any face-to-face or other type of internal contact that the job requires; and
  • the policies and procedures necessary to insure the integrity and security of information.
Q-8 How will work performance be monitored? Will telecommuting lead to a decline in work performance?
A. Generally, telecommuting performance should be monitored in the same way main work site performance is monitored. Optimally, performance should be monitored on a results-oriented basis. The manager will have to carefully plan and identify the nature and objective of the task, perhaps by establishing deadlines or arranging for progress reports and meetings. Most studies of telecommuters have reported that telecommuting job performance equals or exceeds pre-telecommuting performance.
Q-9 Should a specific schedule be set for work at the alternate work site?
A. Yes. All work schedules require management approval. A pre-set schedule of work hours should be established prior to the employee working at the alternate work site. The work schedule options for telecommuting are the same as those for the normal work site. Temporary assignments or changes in work schedule may be made at management's discretion to meet work needs or to accommodate the employee.
Q-10 Can an employee use alternative work schedules along with Telework?
A. Yes. Managers may approve the combined use of alternative work schedules and Telework. Reports from telecommuting programs recommend that optimal utilization of either program can be achieved through their combined use.
Q-11 What about the impact on the office when some employees are working at home?
A. Certain guidelines must be established to minimize adverse impact on other staff members before employees begin to work at home. The overall interest of the office must take precedence over working at alternate sites. A supervisor may require an employee to work at the main work site on a day scheduled for an alternate work site if the needs of the office so require. Telework should not put a burden on staff remaining in the office. An equitable distribution of workload should be maintained and methods should be instituted to ensure that main office employees are not saddled with telecommuter responsibilities.
Q-12 What is the telecommuter's official duty station?
A. The telecommuter's official duty station will remain the main office. All pay, special salary rates, leave, and travel entitlements are based on the official duty station.
Q-13 What if a manager or a telecommuter believes the telecommutuing arrangement is not working out?
A. Flexible workplace arrangements are not a right or condition of employment. Management may end an employee's participation as a telecommuter, if the employee's performance declines or if the telecommuting arrangement is detrimental to organizational needs. Also, the employee may end participation at anytime without cause.
Q-14 Will the employee be reimbursed for utility expenses associated with an alternate work site?
A. No. The Government assumes no responsibility for the telecommuter's expenses related to heating, electricity, water, and space usage.
Q-15 What equipment will the employee need at the alternate work site and who will provide it?
A. The needed equipment and who will provide it will vary by situation. Generally speaking, organizations are not required to provide equipment at alternate work sites. However, to the extent possible within the organization’s budgetary limits, approved teleworkers will be provided the basic equipment needed to perform their duties or employees may use their own equipment, as long as it is compatible with HUD’s standards for hardware and software. For most employees, this will include: (a) notebook computer with built in monitor and modem; (b) HUD standard office system software (MicroSoft Office suite and Lotus Notes Mail); and (c) a surge protector (power strip). Other equipment such as printers, external monitors, scanners, pagers, and cellular phones will not be provided, without the appropriate written justification and approval.
Q-16 Are there restrictions on the use of the Government-owned equipment, software or information at an alternate work site?
A. Yes. Government-owned equipment can be used for official purposes only. Telecommuters must adhere to all rules, regulations, and procedures relating to security and confidentiality of work-related information and data. Organizations allowing employees to access records subject to the Privacy Act from an alternate work site must maintain appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of the records. The Agency should revise appropriate records to indicate that the alternate work site is authorized for the use and maintenance of classified or confidential information and data.
Q-17 Who is responsible for maintaining and servicing Government or privately owned equipment used at the alternate work site?
A. Generally, the Government will be responsible for the service and maintenance of Government-owned equipment. Also generally, telecommuters using their own equipment are responsible for its service and maintenance.
Q-18 Telework seems like an ideal solution to child or other dependent care issues.
A. Not exactly. Telework can provide valuable assistance with dependent care, but it is not likely to be a comprehensive solution. Telecommuters should consider carefully the feasibility of any plans to mix dependent care and work. Studies have shown that this can lead to problems with both job performance and quality of care. It is likely that telecommuters will continue to require additional help with their dependent care responsibilities.