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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is Flexiplace? Is it the same as telework?

Ans. Flexiplace is the abbreviated name for the Federal Flexible Workplace Program. This program provides employees the opportunity to work all or part of the work week (generally on a regular basis) at alternative worksites away from the main worksite. Typically, the alternative worksite is the employee's home or a satellite work center geographically convenient to the employee's home. Working at an alternative worksite is called 'telecommuting' and such workers are called telecommuters.

2. What steps are needed to initiate Telework (Flexiplace)?

Ans. Refer to SECTION I: GETTING STARTED of this manual.

3. Does the Fair Labor Standards Act apply?

Ans. Yes. Refer to the discussions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Labor Relations in Section III of this document.

4. What types of jobs or tasks are adaptable to Telework and Flexiplace?

Ans. Generally, any job that has tasks which are portable and can be performed away from the main worksite. The teleworker and the supervisor can determine which specific tasks are adaptable to telework.

5. Is telecommuting and Flexiplace a good way to employ disabled persons?

Ans. Yes. See sections II and III of this document and GSA's FIRMR Bulletin 56 for more details.

6. What are the benefits of Telework?

Ans. There are many general benefits to Telework, and there are benefits that will be specific to your organization and staff. Some examples might be:

  • Improvements in employee morale and effectiveness.
  • Reductions in transportation costs including car insurance, maintenance, and wear.
  • Retention of skilled employees and reduction in turnover due in part to increased job satisfaction.
  • Accommodation of employees with short or long term health problems or family responsibilities, such as problems associated with elder care and latch-key children.
  • Cost savings to the Government in regard to office space, sick leave absences, and energy conservation.
  • Better use of employees' peak productivity periods within the limits of established laws.
  • Reduction in automobile-created air pollution and traffic congestion.
  • Potential for increased productivity.
  • Improved work atmosphere due to fewer co-worker non-business interruptions.

7. Who may participate in Telework (Flexiplace)?

Ans. Only non-bargaining unit employees for the Fort Gordon Pilot Program.  If implemented and the union approves, bargaining unit employees may participate.

8. Does an employee have a right to be a teleworker?

Ans. No. Participation is not a right. Management is responsible for deciding if the position is one that is appropriate for offsite work and for examining both the content of the work and the performance of the employee. Because this is a management work option, there is no automatic right of the employee to continue participation in the event of a change of supervisor.

9. Can a supervisor participate in the flexible workplace program?

Ans. Yes.

10. Who is liable for work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternate worksite?

Ans. An employee is covered under the Federal Employee's Compensation Act if injured in the course of actually performing official duties at the alternate worksite.  The employee must notify the supervisor immediately of any accident or injury and complete necessary forms.  The government is not liable for damages to an employee's personal or real property at the alternate worksite, except to the extent the government may be held liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act or the the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claim Act.

11. What should a manager consider before agreeing to a Telework arrangement?

Ans. The manager and worker should examine the job requirements and determine what tasks can be accomplished at an alternate worksite. Additionally, the manager should determine:

  • If the employee has the skill and knowledge of the job to work at the alternate site;
  • If the employee needs work-related input or support that is only available at the main office;
  • The equipment and related costs necessary to support an alternate worksite;
  • How the employee can meet the requirements of any face-to-face or other type of internal contact that the job requires;
  • Policies and procedures necessary to insure the integrity and security of information.

12. How will work performance be monitored? Will telework lead to a decline in work performance?

Ans. Generally, telework performance should be monitored in the same way main worksite performance is monitored. Optimally, performance should be monitored on a results-oriented basis (see section III under performance standards, for a discussion of management by results). The manager will have to carefully plan and identify the nature and objective of the task, perhaps by establishing deadlines or arranging for progress reports and meetings. Most studies of teleworkers have reported that telework job performance equals or exceeds pre-telework performance.

13. Should a specific schedule be set for work at the alternate worksite?

Ans. Yes. All work schedules are discretionary and require management approval. A pre-set schedule of telework work hours should be established prior to the employee working at the alternate worksite. Temporary telework assignments or changes in work schedule may be made at management's discretion to meet work needs or to accommodate the employee.

14. Can an employee use Telework and alternate work schedules along with alternate worksites (Flexiplace)?

Ans. Yes. Managers may approve the combined use of Flexitime and Telework (Flexiplace). Reports from telework programs recommend that optimal utilization of either program can be achieved through their combined use.

15. What about the impact on the office when some employees are working at the alternate worksites?

Ans. Certain guidelines must be established to minimize adverse impact on other staff members before employees begin to work at alternate worksites. The overall interests of the office must take precedence over working at alternate sites. A supervisor may require an employee to work at the main worksite on a day scheduled for an alternate worksite if the needs of the office so require. Flexiplace should not put a burden on staff remaining in the office. An equitable distribution of workload should be maintained and methods should be instituted to ensure that main office employees are not saddled with telework responsibilities.

16. What is the teleworker's official duty station?

Ans. The agency makes this determination. Generally, it is recommended that the teleworker's official duty station be the main office. All pay, special salary rates, leave, and travel entitlements are based on the official duty station.

17. What if a manager or a teleworker believes the telework arrangement is not working out?

Ans. Flexible workplace arrangements are not a right or condition of employment. Management may end an employee's participation in Telework if the employee's performance declines or if the pilot is detrimental to organizational needs. Also, the employee may end participation at anytime without cause.

18. Will the employee be reimbursed for utility expenses associated with an alternate worksite?

Ans. No. The Government assumes no responsibility for the teleworker's expenses related to heating, electricity, water, and space usage.

18. Can the Government pay for the installation of a telephone line in a private residence?

Ans. Yes. The Treasury, Postal Service, General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1992, Public Law 102-141, Sec. 625, signed into law October 28, 1991, states:

  • "Notwithstanding any provisions of this Act or any other Act, during the fiscal year ending September 30, 1992, any department, division, bureau or office participating in the Federal Flexiplace Project may use funds appropriated in this or any other Act to install telephone lines, necessary equipment, and to pay monthly charges, in any private residence or private apartment: Provided, that the head of the department, division, bureau or office certifies that adequate safeguards against private misuse exist, and that the service is necessary for direct support of the Agency's mission. This temporary legislation has been extended and the authority to install telephone lines is still in effect."

19. What equipment will the employee need at the alternate worksite and who will provide it?

Ans. The needed equipment and who will provide it will vary by situation. Generally speaking, organizations are not required to provide equipment at alternate worksites. Each Agency must establish its own policies on the provision and installation of equipment.

20. Are there restrictions on the use of the Government-owned equipment, software or information at an alternate worksite?

Ans. Yes. Government-owned equipment can be used for official purposes only. Teleworkers must adhere to all rules, regulations, and procedures relating to security and confidentiality of work-related information and data. Agencies allowing employees to access records subject to the Privacy Act from an alternate worksite must maintain appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of the records. The Agency should revise appropriate records to indicate that the alternate worksite is authorized for the use and maintenance of classified or confidential information and data.

21. Who is responsible for maintaining and servicing Government or privately owned equipment used at the alternate worksite?

Ans. Generally, the Government will be responsible for the service and maintenance of Government-owned equipment. Also generally, teleworkers using their own equipment are responsible for its service and maintenance.

22. Flexiplace seems like an ideal solution to child or other dependent care issues.

Ans. Not exactly. Telework can provide valuable assistance with dependent care, but it is not likely to be a comprehensive solution. Teleworkers should consider carefully the feasibility of any plans to mix dependent care and work. Studies have shown that this can lead to problems with both job performance and quality of care. It is likely that teleworkers will continue to require additional help with their dependent care responsibilities.

23. What are some pitfalls and how can they be avoided?

Ans. Many of the common pitfalls that new teleworkers and their supervisors may encounter have already been identified. Fortunately, ways to avoid these situations have also been developed. Much of the training for teleworkers and their supervisors addresses how to get started correctly and how to deal with problem situations as they arise. Examples of the common pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Establishing rigid agency-wide operating policies and procedures which do not allow supervisors and participants room to adjust the program to suit their needs. Flexibility within reasonable legal parameters is a key ingredient in establishing agency policies. Rigidity, on the other hand, can ruin the experience for participating organizations.
  • Allowing problem employees in the program. Unless there is a careful diagnosis indicating that Telecommuting is a specific remedy, problem employees will remain problems in the program and jeopardize the program for others.
  • Allowing employees in the program without adequate Telework training (orientation). Employees and their supervisors need to understand the relevant policies, procedures, and other factors associated with successful operation of Telework. Without such understanding, unnecessary problems can occur which put a strain on the operation of the program.
  • Not informing and working with unions in a timely manner. Agencies planning to allow union represented employees in the program should include unions in the process as early as possible in the planning stages. Unions perceiving they have been bypassed or caught off-guard are not likely to respond favorably to the implementation effort.
  • Starting the programs without proper planning and preparation. Supervisors should not begin the program until they have worked out operating procedures, expectations, schedules, lines of communication, etc. with both participants and non-participants. Premature start-up places unnecessary strain on an organization which is already trying to adjust to a new circumstance.
  • Automated monitoring of employee performance (monitoring an employee's key strokes and time on/off a computer via electronic devices, e.g.). Such monitoring has been shown to create stressful working conditions, is the subject of proposed Congressional legislation banning such monitoring, and is contrary to the management by results philosophy of Telework.
  • Allowing Telecommuting to inconvenience and/or unfairly burden non-participating employees. Inadequate planning and preparation can lead to this situation which causes both morale and job performance problems.
  • Not adequately informing co-workers regarding the telecommuter's office schedule and/or attempting to hide the program from co-workers.
  • Not developing a clear understanding between the manager and the teleworker regarding work expectations .