The federal government wants to increase the amount federal employees telework, and even passed a law to make it easier in December 2010.
But finding out whether that’s actually happening is tricky. Because the metrics used to measure telework are continually shifting, it’s probably going to be a few more years before we know whether things are actually improving, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
GAO said that for years, agencies have used different methods to collect telework data, leaving those statistics inconsistent and unreliable. After the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act was passed, the Office of Personnel Management sought to fix that problem by revising its 2011 “data call.” That revision sought to standardize definitions of key terms and reporting methods, added more questions to make the surveys more reliable, and shortened the time frame during which telework participation is measured.
But GAO said those changes mean that the data measured in September and October 2011 will be so different it can’t possibly be compared to prior years’ results.
What’s more, agencies are still increasing their use of automated data collection, GAO said, and OPM might change its survey methods even more before it starts collecting 2012 data. That means the 2011 data might be essentially worthless too, GAO said.
“OPM officials anticipate that telework data will be more reliable next year,” GAO said.
OPM told GAO that it would make it clear in its first mandated report to Congress this June that the 2011 data has its limitations and keep trying to improve data collection, as GAO recommended. But OPM also noted that data collection remains inadequate at the agency level, which it is trying to address through training.