Teleworking Permitted, Encouraged for Fort Meade Workers
In an effort to reduce commuting time and cut down on traffic on and around the base, many agencies allow employees to work from home at least one day each week.
There is one guaranteed way to avoid dealing with traffic when heading to offices at Fort Meade: don’t even bother going.
The federal government is not going to let you skip work. (They might shut down for a little while, but that’s a whole other issue.)
But, officials at Fort Meade and the more than 80 tenants on base are actively encouraging most workers to consider working from home at least one day each week–and as many as three–as a way of reducing traffic on base and in the surrounding area. Telecommuting is a main tentpole in a transportation demand management plan outlined by leadership at Fort Meade and neighboring counties.
The logic for the telecommuting push is simple: If employees worked from home even one day each week, there would be a 20 percent decline in the number of people passing weekly through the Fort Meade gates for work.
"It means on that given day, there are many fewer single occupancy vehicles," said Bert Rice, the director of transformation at Fort Meade.
Rice said telecommuting at least one day each week is especially helpful when used in combination with other alternative commuting options, including carpools, vanpools, rail and buses.
President Obama in December signed the Telework Enhancement Act, requiring all federal agencies to establish policies regarding telework. The bill mandates that the agencies hold telework training sessions and that those employees who work from home be given equal consideration in their performance reviews. Agencies are required to submit a progress update in June.
Some agencies dealing in classified and secret data, such as the National Security Agency, aren’t set up for telework. But others, even some that require workers to have a security clearance, do allow telecommuting and equip employees with laptops and remote access to agency networks. Workers must get supervisor approval and, in many cases, go through training.
Officials said it has been a welcome option for those agencies relocating from Northern Virginia and elsewhere as a result of base realignment and closure (BRAC) activities. Thousands of workers from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Defense Media Activity and from the Defense Adjudication Activities have been arriving on base at a rate of nearly 200 each week since January. Many of those workers still reside in Northern Virginia and are facing potentially long commutes each day.
Officials said there has already been strong initial interest in telecommuting from the roughly 1,000 garrison workers and those involved in the Defense Adjudication Activities.
DISA, which will bring 4,700 new workers to its new headquarters at Fort Meade by the end of the summer, has had a robust telecommuting program in place for several years. More than two-thirds of its employees in the area are equipped with laptops that allow access to the agency’s networks, and workers are permitted to telecommute up to three days each week.
Federal workers who don’t want to deal with a daily commute but aren’t thrilled with the idea of working from home can also use telework centers operated by the General Services Administration. There are 13 such centers in Maryland and Virginia, and one in West Virginia, and they cost $72 per day, paid for by the agencies.
The option to telecommute is in addition to other flexible work arrangements. Many agencies offer compressed work weeks, allowing employees to work an extra hour each day in exchange for getting a day off every other week.