Background & History
The history and statutory framework for establishing telework began more than a decade ago as an effort to address transportation concerns and grew into an important flexible work arrangement and a powerful recruitment and retention tool for the Federal Government. Over the years, telework has continued to receive attention due to its potential to improve employee morale, enhance work-life balance for employees, improve the competitive position of the Federal Government for recruiting and retaining the best and brightest workforce, increase Federal capacity to achieve mission and operational goals, and maximize organizational productivity. In recent years, the focus has expanded to view telework as a strategic management tool for coping with potential disruptions in the workplace due to severe weather or other emergencies, and as a means to reduce the overhead costs and real estate footprint of the Federal Government, while continuing to deliver timely services to the public.
Congressional interest in expanding the use of telework in the Executive branch began in earnest with the passage of the Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2001 (Public Law 106-346), which required each Executive agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency would be permitted to participate in telework to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance. The Act required OPM to ensure that these telework requirements were applied to 25 percent of the Federal workforce within six months of enactment, and to an additional 25 percent of employees every year thereafter.
In response to this congressional mandate, OPM began to survey Federal agencies about telework in 2000. By means of the annual “Call for Telework Data,” OPM collaborates with Federal agencies to collect information about individual agency telework programs, including participation rates. The analysis of that data is presented in the yearly Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report to Congress, published annually since 2002.
Further legislation (P.L. 108-7, P.L., 108-199 and P.L. 108-447) followed the mandate for Executive agencies to establish a telework policy but the focus was more incremental and directed specific agencies to increase telework participation by specified amounts. Congress also required these agencies to appoint telework coordinators and required quarterly Congressional reports on the status of their telework programs. Congress also withheld $5 million of the budgets of the specific agencies (e.g. Commerce, Justice, and State, SBA, SEC) in P.L. 108-447 § 622 until they certified that "telecommuting opportunities were made available to 100 percent of the eligible workforce.”
For telework legislation by year, visit Legislation by Year.