The fourth annual Telework Week is just three weeks away, and more agencies are planning to use the event to test their continuity of operations plans.
As of Monday morning, nearly 30,000 workers had pledged to telework during this year's Telework Week, which runs March 3-7. Pledges to the program often surge in the final weeks of February, particularly as federal agencies submit total pledges on behalf of their employees, Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, told Wired Workplace on Friday.
"The whole program is a mock snowstorm, and most agencies will use it as a COOP exercise," Auten said, referring to continuity of operations or the effort to keep government open in inclement weather or other adverse conditions. "It also provides a type of low-risk approach to measuring employee engagement."
As in past years, agencies will use the 2014 event to test their business continuity plans and stress test their systems in areas like help desk support and remote logins to measure how much progress has been made in the past year as well as any holes that need to be filled, Auten said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which already has a robust telework program in place, will use the Telework Week event as a trial run for a full telework exercise the agency has planned for April. The Transportation Department in past years also has performed one-day exercises during Telework Week where it closed its Washington headquarters and encouraged all eligible employees to telework.
Last year, the Telework Week program had a record number of more than 136,000 pledges, with 82 percent of pledges coming from federal participants. The majority of feds (81 percent) participating in last year's event said they did not encounter any challenges related to telework during the weeklong event, and nearly three out of four reported being more productive while teleworking.
Auten pointed to the most recent telework status report, released in December by the Office of Personnel Management, which found nearly half (47 percent) of federal employees eligible to telework in 2012, up from 32 percent in 2011, as well as an 84 percent increase in the number of telework agreements in 2012 over the previous year.
"There's a population who is new to this," Auten said, "and so it becomes about engagement and educating them on what does this mean and how does it work with programs like Flexiplace or other programs they might participate in."
This year, with 9 out of 10 pledges thus far coming from federal participants, Auten said the hope is to expand participation beyond the federal space in order to have better comparisons on telework practices in the public versus private sector.
"We're skewed towards having more federal participants because we are federally-focused," she said. "But we are focusing with new partners across the country to bring in other workers, not just the federal government, and so hopefully we'll continue to see increases in that year over year."
Have you made your pledge for this year's Telework Week? If not, click here.