During a civil service career that has spanned a decade and a half with multiple federal government agencies, Mika Cross has advocated and supported the adoption of remote work outside of a centralized office settings as a means of promoting work/life balance, diversity, inclusion and employee engagement. Cross reports about a third of federal employees deemed eligible to work remotely at least some of the work week are doing so, six years after the enactment of federal legislation designed to increase the adoption of telework by federal agencies.
While telework leverages information and communications technology to bring federal employees’ work to them instead of requiring them to commute daily, Cross notes it’s primarily an organizational and management strategy that emphasizes getting the government’s work done with accountability, clear expectations and timeliness and quality standards. Cross discusses telework as a means of addressing one of the most pressing issues in contemporary American life: a perceived time famine among working professionals and employee engagement and wellness.
One thought on “Conversation with Mika Cross, federal workplace policy strategist”
Fred and Mika,
I enjoyed listening to your post. I know you were kind enough to mention my work on distributed work centers and I wanted to clear up a common misconception. There were ‘telework centers in the 90’s and early 2000’s supported by GSA and utilized by a number of ‘privileged’ federal workers. They tended to be modest in size – usually 15 to 25 available ‘seats’ for casual and drop in use. These centers rarely seemed to be used to capacity and the user composition was never the same day to day. As broadband services became available at residences, these early remote workers relocated into their homes.
Unfortunately, the pool of active teleworkers in the federal government’s more than 15 years experience still only amounts to about 15% of the federal workforce. More importantly, the number of federal workers working remotely on any given day is about 3%. Distributed centers are designed to a much larger scale supporting between 300 to 3000 employees. Agencies and departments would have a dedicated office within a distributed center where 25 to 250 agency employees would report everyday (depending on geographic hiring patterns).
We have seen how the migration to remote work programs and the subsequent re-design of the central business office is resulting, in some cases, in the ‘hollowing out’ of the organization – See NYTimes 1/2/16 article “Telecommuting Can Make the Office a Lonely Place”. The vast majority of telework eligible employees have never telecommuted and the opportunity exists to focus on approaches that are more holistic. By using a distributed center approach, more communities and employees can participate in the remote work revolution. This form of pro-active deployment and supportive SECURE network infrastructure is a more effective method of improving COOP at all levels.
I hope I have clarified that networks of distributed work centers are not our grandfather’s telework centers. Thank you both for moving the conversation forward.
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