For eligible employees, telework provides a means of meeting mission requirements at an alternate work site while eliminating stressors associated with commutes, parking and common workplace interruptions. Currently, approximately 16,000 Defense Logistics Agency employees are telework eligible.
Since February 2015, DLA Human Resources and DLA Information Operations team members have been working on an initiative to integrate submission of employee telework agreements with the Employee Activity Guide for Labor Entry automated timekeeping system, known as EAGLE.
The EAGLE Telework Management module simplifies the process of initiating, updating and maintaining telework agreements, said Braunilyn Baker, a human resources specialist in DLA Human Resources Policy.
“ETM is basically a digitized version of employees’ telework agreements,” she said. “In the past, employees had to fill out four DLA forms and submit them through their appropriate chain of approval.”
The paper process often resulted in lost forms and extended processing times, Baker said.
“ETM streamlines the process for the employees and supervisors,” she said. “It makes life a lot easier – particularly for activity telework coordinators who are administering the program at a local level.”
“Telework eligibility really depends on the position, the employee’s specific job function, state of performance or conduct, and the employee’s readiness,” Baker said.
“With the paper process, it was hard to ensure people were coded correctly and were under an approved agreement. ETM resolves this issue,” Baker said.
Another historically ambiguous area has been telework approvals. DLA Instruction 7212 identifies the telework approving official as the organization’s senior executive. But Baker said that across DLA, delegation of this authority is not consistent or well known.
“That’s something we need to ensure each organization is applying consistently,” she said. “In the past, it was hard to make sure that telework requests were routed to the right people at the right stage of the submission process.”
“ETM has built in an escalation feature that retains the disapproval authority at the senior executive level. First line supervisors can recommend approval or recommend disapproval of telework requests. Recommended disapprovals must work their way up the organizational chain using the EAGLE hierarchy.”
In addition to keeping supervisors and employees accountable for adherence to policy, ETM will ease the process for both parties. Updates and changes will be much easier to make, Baker said.
“With ETM, employees can request updates to their agreements with a couple of strokes of the keyboard,” she said. “And the employee still has the option to print the agreement on the official DLA telework forms if desired.”
“ETM is designed to make the telework approval process more efficient, but it does not replace good old fashioned communication between employees and supervisors,” DLA Human Resources Director Brad Bunn said. “Our policy, training and guidance set the expectation that employees and supervisors will discuss a number of things before entering into a telework arrangement, including mutual expectations, the enabling technology, work schedule, and how best to ensure telework enables mission accomplishment.”
The system is being implemented in stages, with the most recent group of headquarters organizations’ “go live” date on Oct. 18, 2016. This group includes DLA Strategic Plans and Policy, DLA Joint Reserve Force, DLA Energy and all the DLA Director’s Staff offices.
“Once your organization goes live, and if your position is eligible, you will see a drop down [in EAGLE] labeled Telework Management,” Baker said.
When an employee digitally enters the information into ETM, the system will generate a new start date for the telework agreement. Thereafter, if no major changes are required to the agreement, the agreement will renew for an additional year. Supervisors will receive a 30 calendar-day email reminder when an employee’s agreement is due to expire, Baker said.
She cautions employees that the time to make changes to a current telework agreement is not when they are populating the digital telework agreement in ETM.
Bunn echoed this instruction in an email to senior leaders.
“An important point: the entering of existing telework agreements into ETM is not the appropriate time for employees to request modifications to the agreement (e.g., additional days) or for supervisors to revisit the approval of such agreements,” he said. “If updates are necessary to ensure the data in ETM accurately reflects the actual agreement (e.g., work schedule), that is acceptable.”
The system is scheduled to be deployed throughout DLA by June 2017. Baker said employees should check their eligibility and current telework agreement now, to smooth ETM’s implementation.
“From the employees’ perspective, this would be a good opportunity for them to learn about telework eligibility and understand who in their organization can approve or disapprove telework requests,” she said.