Before leaving for its August recess, the House took an important step forward in the effort to make the federal government the model for telework policy. I supported an amendment to the energy bill that would require each federal agency to establish a telework policy within one year. That provision builds on a federal telework mandate I pushed forward in 2001. (You can read more about the new amendment here.)

My legislation enacted in 2001 mandated a phased-in program to expand the number of federal employees who telework with the goal of giving every eligible federal worker this workplace option by the end of  2005.  While annual surveys by the Office of Personnel Management on telework by federal employees have shown some progress in meeting the law's mandate, there is much more that agencies can do to expand the number of federal telecommuters.   To emphasize the importance of telework in the federal workplace, when I chaired the Science-State-Justice-Commerce spending panel I included provisions in the FY 2005, FY 2006 and FY 2007 spending bills for the departments of Commerce, Justice, and State and related agencies to withhold $5 million from the agencies which fail to meet the 2001 law.

I have been a long-time and staunch supporter of telework.  Telework offers a 21st century workplace option that can reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as cut gasoline consumption and dependency on foreign oil.  Study after study has shown that telework benefits employees and employers.  It gives employees the flexibility they need to meet daily demands.

Employers – both government and private businesses – get the benefit of increased productivity, improved morale, fewer sick leave days used, better worker retention, and reduced costs for office space. Telework also helps ensure that the federal government can maintain continuity of operations in emergency situations.

With these benefits in sight, we need to keep moving toward the goal of getting the maximum number of eligible employees to participate in telework programs