Academic journal article The Public Manager

Federal Distributed Work Case Study: IRS Flexiplace and Hoteling Pilot. (the Evolving Workplace)

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Federal Distributed Work Case Study: IRS Flexiplace and Hoteling Pilot. (the Evolving Workplace)

Article excerpt

A recent IRS case study shows how federal managers can implement new requirements to enable 100 percent of eligible agency employees to telecommute by 2004. Part 2 of teleworking in the public sector.

The Winter 2000 edition of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Leader's Digest described the growing number of employees servicewide who successfully work apart from their manager and work group. However, internal survey findings showed that flexiplace was underutilized by Information Systems' (IS) headquarters and field staff despite the fact that many work activities are conducive to telecommuting.

To demonstrate the benefits of flexible work arrangements for both the organization and its employees, the director of IS Office of Information Resources Management (OIRM) endorsed a proposal for a flexiplace/hoteling pilot. The objectives of the pilot were:

* to identify and resolve issues that affect participation in flexible work arrangements;

* to promote flexiplace and hoteling as viable work options in IS; and

* provide a model that could be replicated in other IS areas.

OIRM conducted its pilot over a four-month period, from June to October 2000, working in partnership with local National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 65 as the pilot was designed. The memorandum soliciting pilot volunteers from among managers and employees was sent to all OIRM associates from both the division director and the Chapter 65 NTEU president. The pilot adhered to the provisions of the local Chapter 65 flexiplace agreement.

Maryland-based Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot Program

Twenty volunteers participated in the pilot (18 employees and two managers), working at home one to three days every week. Participants were provided with laptops for use at their home offices and when they reported to the main office in New Carrollton, MD. The IS laptop center installed standardized office software on each machine and configured each laptop with the participants' unique user profile to allow participants to have remote access from home. Prior to pilot startup, participants were given a hands-on orientation on laptop operation. Participants were also provided with cell phones, pagers, portable printers, and/or long distance calling cards as needed.

When in the main office, participants were assigned a temporary workstation through a space reservation system, a workspace alternative known as hoteling. Participants used their laptops along with docking stations and monitors to connect to the IRS network and a traveling phone system enabled employees to transfer their phone/voice mail number to their temporary workstations. When working at home, participants were provided with remote access to e-mail via their laptops.

A fundamental part of the pilot's design was training for both managers and telecommuters. An outside consultant who had private and public sector experience with flexible work programs conducted the training. All OIRM managers received training on remote management skills that focused on managing based on results. Telecommuters received training on the responsibilities and strategies to be successful remote workers.

A data-gathering strategy was devised to evaluate the effectiveness of flexiplace/hoteling arrangements. Information was collected from three groups: participants, their managers, and co-workers. Surveys were administered both before and after pilot implementation to assess attitudes toward flexiplace and the degree of satisfaction with flexible work arrangements. After the pilot had passed its midway mark, three focus group sessions were conducted to identify key successes and major issues or concerns. The first session included participants only, a second was for managers only, and a third session of both participants and managers shared findings and identified recommendations for improvements.

An advisory group, consisting of management, employee, and union representatives from OIRM as well as systems development (IS' largest function also planning to implement flexible work arrangements), assisted in resolving various implementation issues. …

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