OK, the government didn't shut down last week. Yes, there was a lot of drama and brinksmanship in Washington over the past few weeks, but cooler heads did prevail and my former colleagues and other friends working for Uncle Sam are still at their desks... or are they? A lot of them are not at their desks because they are teleworking, like they do on a regular basis.
One of the most interesting things I heard over the days leading up to the threatened shut down was "...but, can I telework, even if the government is closed?" Of course the answer from the lawyers was a resounding, "No!" Except for essential personnel (called "excepted" in the politically correct parlance of Washington) and those whose funding is not appropriated (self funded or revolving fund operations), government workers cannot volunteer during a funding crisis. It seems strange to be talking about all of the government workers who were trying to find ways to work (for free), when most of the talk has been about how our public employees are overpaid, underworked, and unneeded. Funny, isn't it?
So the reason the government workers couldn't work at home was a legal issue, not a technical one. But then this was a crisis of political confidence, not a natural disaster or act of terrorism. In those cases, we now have a strong and growing cadre of workers who are ready, willing, and able to keep the wheels of government turning when we need it most -- during a crisis. This is what resilience means and its one of the benefits of telework that is often overlooked.
Next week, more than 800 people from government, industry, and academia will come together for the April 28 Telework Exchange Spring Town Hall Meeting in Washington to talk about this issue and many others related to the management, technical, and environmental aspects of a remote workforce. The focus of the conference this month is "Working Smart and Saving Big". A new law requires agencies to set telework policies, provide training, and collect data on its effectiveness. With the focus in Congress on reducing the deficit, there is no doubt in my mind, that the need to show, in real numbers, how telework is saving money will be a top priority for government oversight committees.
We have spent a lot of the last year talking about how telework can save money, improve productivity, help families and the environment, but the time for talk is fading. I predict we might even see House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) quote a Missouri colleague from a decade ago, who legendarily said, "frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. You have got to show me."
As always, I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and concerns. E-mail me at email@example.com, visit my blog at TeleworkExchange.com, or find me at the Spring Town Hall Meeting.
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