emergency telework

A key factor in retaining business service continuity? through an extended crisis is emergency telework.


US government

Provisions for emergency telework are mandatory for every US government agency?, though few have met this requirement. Fear of pandemic influenza spreading faster due to government workers coming in to work in the US and Canada has prompted acceleration of telework deployment.

A recent infoworld article claims(external link) that "In addition to a flu pandemic that could last as long as 18 months, teleworking can help the government continue operations in other emergencies, groups say. Parts of the U.S. government could shut down during a much-feared outbreak of bird flu unless it develops better telecommuting plans...

Paul Kurtz?, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance? (CSIA), and Scott Kriens?, chairman and chief executive officer of networking equipment vendor Juniper Networks Inc., told the US House of Representatives? Government Reform Committee? that government agencies lack plans for long-term telecommuting.

Even as world health officials worry that the ever-spreading bird flu could mutate and begin jumping from human to human, most federal agencies' telecommuting plans assume employees will be gone two or three days, Kurtz said.

In addition to a flu pandemic that could last as long as 18 months, teleworking can help the government continue operations in other emergencies, such as terrorist attack?s and natural disaster?s, Kurtz said. Although the U.S. Congress in 2000 passed a law requiring agencies to offer telework options, agencies are required to return any cost-savings achieved through teleworking back to the federal budget, Kurtz said."
"There's really no incentive at the most senior level of agencies to invest in telework," he said.

The committee hearing came on the same day that the U.S. Government Accountability Office? (GAO) released a report saying many U.S. agencies haven't developed emergency teleworking plans.

While federal agencies have increased their use of teleworking in the past two years, only nine of 23 agencies the GAO surveyed reported they had plans in place for essential workers to telecommute, GAO said. Only one agency has told its emergency team members about telework expectations during a disaster, GAO added.

...a survey of U.S. government workers released by advocacy group the Telework Exchange found that 71 percent of respondents did not believe their agency was now able to continue operations during a pandemic flu outbreak. The survey included answers from 266 federal workers, and 24 percent of respondents were from the military? or U.S. Department of Defense.?

In recent years, Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis?, a Virginia Republican, has called on agencies to embrace telework as a way to continue operations in an emergency.

But the U.S. government has done little to study how a flu pandemic would affect the Internet and the systems administrators who keep it running, Kurtz said. "We need to have somebody think through how we keep the information infrastructure operating," he added.

Kriens told committee members that private businesses are ahead of government agencies in embracing telework.

"Business managers realize that telework is a way to get optimal performance from their workers, allowing employees to get work done from home or the road," Kriens said in written testimony. "I find it ironic that many government managers reportedly equate telework with reduced employee work hours and lower productivity, believing in the outdated management philosophy that 'if I can’t see you, I can’t manage you.'” "

Canadian government

An open letter to Ralph Goodale from Civic Efficiency Group in February 2006 underlined the necessity and cost-efficiency of supporting emergency telework and routine telework using one cost-effective signal infrastructure that could withstand any emergency.

private businesses

Sherry Cooper? of the Bank of Montreal? wrote two reports on these issues in 2005.

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