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Bureaucrats Working in Pajamas

Monday August 29th, 2016   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:17am PDT   •  

15127555 - mature man sitting in chair with laptop Six years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which permitted eligible bureaucrats who work in the civilian portion of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government to telecommute to work. When the law was passed, lawmakers expected to realize several benefits, particularly in the nation’s capital:

  • Less traffic congestion.
  • Less pollution related to commuting.
  • Less energy use at government offices.

Today, nearly 25% of these bureaucrats have taken advantage of the Telework law to work part time from home. Unfortunately, the General Accounting Office has issued a report that suggests that none of these expected benefits have yet to be measured. The Post and Courier reports:

… the GAO has concluded in a review of six agencies, big and small, that there is no compelling evidence to show that working from home delivers the anticipated benefits. Those include less congestion and fewer auto emissions by reduced commuting, and fewer energy costs at federal agencies when office space isn’t occupied.

Auditors found “little data to support the benefits or costs associated with their telework programs.”

Allowing federal bureaucrats to telecommute to work would also appear to not enhance the productivity of the workers who participate in the program. The Post and Courier recalls what was learned in a case study involving patent examiners employed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

After whistleblowers in 2014 alerted federal auditors to abuses, investigators found little oversight of stay-at-home workers. Consequently, the quality of work suffered, leading to the issuance of faulty patents and, later, litigation.

Moreover, the system was subject to abuses by the teleworkers and their supervisors. Stay-at-home examiners were given credit for work yet to be reviewed, and many workers didn’t complete their assignments until the very last minute.

Nevertheless, 99 percent of those examiners were given a “quality” rating that qualified them for bonus payments.

Teleworking might have a place in the federal bureaucracy, but the findings so far say it should be very limited, and closely monitored.

If the telework program for the employees of the federal government is going to work, the work they do has to get done and it has to get done right. Otherwise, the days of bureaucrats being allowed to work from home in their pajamas deserves to be extremely short.

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August 2016