Wondering about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous questions at www.nih.gov/nihrecord/index.htm (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.
Feedback: Isn’t telework being pushed upon us due to an executive-level mandate? Agencies can now post end-of-year accomplishments of high levels of teleworkers. I was told that I have to take 2 days each pay period to telework! Clinical staff, researchers, maintenance and food service will not have that luxury. I imagine robotics to remove snow would be of great interest. Are supervisors actually going to spend time to review what work has been accomplished while the staff person sits at home? Here’s hoping that this is also a mandate.
Reply from the Office of Human Resources: In December 2010, legislation was passed and signed by the President that provides agencies greater flexibility to manage their workforce. It allows agencies to maximize the use of flexible work arrangements for recruiting and retaining valuable talent, maintaining operations during emergencies, improving management efficiencies and promoting initiatives that enhance the work-life balance of employees.
NIH has taken major steps, based on that legislation and the impacts of BRAC on traffic around campus. These include determining the eligibility of all employees to participate in telework, establishing a workgroup of IC and Office of Management leadership to guide trans-NIH efforts to enhance telework and flexible work schedules as workforce management and environmental sustainability tools, examining barriers and challenges that might hinder more widespread use of telework and sponsoring a telework festival to increase awareness of those flexibilities.
NIH has seen a 70 percent increase in teleworkers over the previous year as a result of these efforts. In response to the question about supervisors reviewing work done by teleworkers, yes, they will be spending time on that, just as they do now whether the employee is at home teleworking or is in the office.
OHR provides training that managers and teleworkers take before establishing an arrangement. It emphasizes two key principles: first, obligations and responsibilities don’t change based on where work is performed and second, supervisors should manage by results. The significance of selecting individuals for telework who perform well in the office is evidenced by reports from employees that they’re able to focus better and get more done in a shorter time while teleworking, facts that are confirmed by their supervisors. The performance elements of the PMAP don’t change and neither do the oversight requirements of supervisors for employees who work at home or in the office. The new telework agreement emphasizes that point by requiring employees to complete all work assignments in accordance with guidelines, standards and metrics stated in their performance plan and/or as indicated by their supervisor.
Feedback: Why doesn’t NIH have a uniform telework plan? Some ICs get to telework 3 days a week (or more) while others [are permitted] only 1 day a pay period. We are told the 1 day a pay period is because some of us are on AWS. We believe this is not in the spirit the President had when he [signed] the Telework Improvement Act in 2010. All of us should be treated equally no matter what IC we work in. With gasoline up to $3.70 a gallon and with all the traffic around campus, not to mention parking [problems], having a uniform telework plan in place makes sense. If you want an example of a great telework plan, look no further than GSA.
Response from OHR: There is an NIH-wide telework policy; it’s available at http://oma.od.nih.gov/manualchapters/person/2300-600-1. One of the most important aspects of telework, determining the eligibility of employees and duties, is usually done at the supervisory level so the IC role of creating internal guidance is critical for ensuring the program is implemented fairly and equitably. Within that framework, managers and supervisors generally have discretion to implement telework to fit the business needs of their organizations. The criteria about business needs are a crucial component of the decision-making process and supervisors in the IC are in the best position to make workplace and telework determinations.