A new law, new money and a pilot program made telecommuting more common
As a candidate, Barack Obama made a three-part promise to "inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting.”
Our first update found little progress, but Obama has made some substantial improvements since then.
In December 2010, he signed the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.
This bipartisan bill expanded telecommuting opportunities for federal employees by making 31 percent of them eligible to telework, thus allowing them to work outside of a traditional office setting.
The act also requires agencies to create policies so that eligible employees are allowed to telework and gives the agencies some incentives to promote telecommuting.
While you might not be familiar with this act -- almost everyone is familiar with "Snowmageddon” -- the February 2010 snow storm that buried Washington, D.C. and forced the federal government to close for days.
John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, estimated that the government lost between $70 and $100 million each day that it was closed during the storm.
He also estimated that almost 30 percent of federal employees telecommuted during this time.
It appears that the costs of "Snowmageddon” inspired some further action on President Obama"s initial promise.
After the storm, the Council of Economic Advisors released a March report concerning two parts of the promise, telecommuting and flexible work opportunities.
It touted the benefits of telecommuting and explained how it has allowed employees in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to better balance work and family responsibilities.
Just days after the report was released, the White House hosted a Forum on Workplace Flexibility. At this meeting, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled its pilot program on incorporating regular flexible workplace procedures.
The White House announced that the program would "build on the cost savings telework provided during last winter's snowstorms and expand opportunities for federal employees, here in Washington and across America, to telework on a regular basis.”
To help businesses with flexible work opportunities, Obama's 2012 budget also requests $23 million for a State Paid Leave Fund to create a competitive grant program that helps states launch their own paid-leave programs.
Since our last update, Obama has made significant progress on his promise workplace flexibility. By signing the Telework Enhancement Act and emphasizing the changing needs of the workforce, he has improved the prospects of telecommuting in the workplace, especially for federal employees. We rate this Promise Kept.
Interview with Kate Lister, president, Global Workplace Analytics, Oct. 15, 2012
Interview with Chuck Wilsker, president, the Telework Coalition, Oct. 15, 2012
OPM, Guide to Telework in the Federal Government, accessed Oct. 10, 2012
The White House, President and First Lady Host White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility
The White House, Helping Middle Class Families Win the Future
The White House, Work-Life Programs, May 4, 2010
Telework Exchange, Telework Taking Flight, Oct. 18 2012
No "program" to encourage telecommuting
We searched for a program "to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting," but were unable to find anything.
During the swine flu outbreak in 2009, federal officials said employers with sick workers should encourage telecommuting to avoid spreading the illness.
There's also an established program that promotes telecommuting for federal agencies and workers.
But we were unable to find evidence of any new program in which the federal government encourages private employers to permit telecommuting. So we rate this promise Stalled.
The Washington Post,
Employers Advised on Swine Flu; Local Colleges Making Plans
, Aug. 20, 2009
Telework.gov , accessed Dec. 29, 2009