Federal agencies must establish policies and managing officers to enable government employees to work remotely.
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In an anticipated and long-awaited move, President Obama on Thursday officially made it a law to allow federal employees to telework.
The House passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 in mid-November following its passage in the Senate in September.
The bill, which requires agencies to establish telework policies and designate a managing officer with direct access to a top agency official to oversee telework programs, has been up for consideration since March 2009.
Rather than chart new territory, the bill solidifies increased support for teleworking the Obama administration already has demonstrated. Over the past year federal employees have even been encouraged to work from home on certain occasions.
For instance, for two days in April during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, federal workers were urged to telework to avoid traffic snarls from high-security measures. President Obama met with top leaders of more than 40 nations during the summit, one of the largest gatherings of heads of state.
Telecommuting also kept the government up and running for several days in February, when a series of snowstorms shut down federal offices for consecutive days.
Now that Obama has signed the bill, federal agencies have 180 days to come up with policies around teleworking, as well to decide which employees are eligible to do so. They also must notify employees about their telework eligibility in that time frame.
The bill also requires agencies to set up training programs for teleworkers and managers to ensure the process goes smoothly, as well as factor telework into business continuity strategies.
Giving employees more freedom to telework is expected to save the government money since it will spend less in onsite resources, and help retain employees because of increased flexibility.