President's Perspective, May 2008: In March and April, the new Expanded Telework Trial Program went into effect. Under this new program, which resulted from NTEU’s recent Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, employees who have in the past participated in recurring telework arrangements at the SEC will be working from home for 3, 4 and in some cases 5 days per week. This program represents a major step forward for the continued expansion of telework opportunities at the SEC. Indeed, many federal agencies have not seen this type of forward progress on telework in recent years.
The benefits of telework are substantial and well documented. This alternative working arrangement affords a better quality of life to SEC employees by offering them significantly more flexibility in their day to day schedules and by permitting them to spend more time with their families rather than wasting hours on long commutes. It also reduces employees’ commuting expenses and assists in decreasing our nation’s dependence upon foreign oil at a time when gasoline prices are soaring nationwide. In addition, it substantially decreases the agency’s “carbon footprint,” providing an important collateral benefit for our environment. And, for all of these reasons, it gives the SEC a great recruiting tool that makes the agency even more competitive in the marketplace.
For all of these reasons, telework opportunities have been steadily expanding in the private sector for years and, in the federal sector, telework has seen increasing bipartisan support in Congress.
The greatest impediment to the expansion of telework opportunities at the SEC is resistance by some mid-level managers who appear to cling to the belief that employees are incapable of acting professionally and productively at any site other than the office. As we work to shift the agency’s culture in this regard, this type of resistance to change is as regrettable as it is predictable. Senior management at the SEC should proactively seek to discourage such outdated thinking.
As teleworking members of the bargaining unit, we also all need to do our part to ensure the success of the SEC’s telework program. Small steps help to persuade recalcitrant managers that telework is an effective tool for employees. Remember to forward your office calls to your cell phone and to change your greeting. Be sure to respond to calls and emails in a timely fashion. Be productive. NTEU Chapter 293 will continue to be at the forefront of this issue in the coming years. With your continued support, we will continue to institutionalize and expand the telework program at the SEC.
by Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman