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Berry: Teleworking Sales Pitch Needs Work

By Ed O'Keefe

How's this for good timing: On a day when Washington-area commuters experienced 20-mile backups in Northern Virginia and downtown road closures due to a suspicious package, hundreds of federal managers and employees met at the Ronald Reagan building to talk about teleworking.

John Berry
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry is a big fan of teleworking.

Speaking at the Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told telework advocates that they need to work with him to quickly determine the best way to sell the workplace practice to skeptical managers and lawmakers. It's one of several alternative work schedules that Berry hopes the entire government can continue to adopt in the coming years.

"The 1950s model of chaining people to their desks for eight hours is a 19th century model and I want to get rid of it. But our semantics could kill us, because if Congress and the public think that teleworking is a day off, then we’re dead," he said.

"A telework day is a work day. You are to be engaged in the workplace," he reminded the crowd during a morning Q&A session. He asked attendees to send him their ideas on how to sell the program.

Berry noted that federal employees in Pittsburgh that work in buildings near Thursday's G20 Summit site were given three days of paid leave this week instead of alternate work schedule options.

"Telework is perfect for a situation like the G20 because it changes the conversation entirely. Instead of asking 'What’s minimum we can do during this time?' we can aim high and ask, 'What’s the maximum we can do?' Can we do 70 percent of a normal day’s work? 80 percent? 90?”

He also urged eligible federal employees to telework at least once a week, stating it should be "second nature" for them.

"It has to be part of the ethos of the office. We can’t have offices with no meetings on Fridays because of telework. Get them on the phone. Get them on video conference if you can."

The Telework Exchange is a public-private partnership designed to promote teleworking options. The group's Web site includes a calculator that helps managers and employees determine potential cost and environmental savings. Its fall meeting continues through this afternoon.

Is teleworking a good or bad thing? How would you sell the plan to skeptics? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 24, 2009; 12:06 PM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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