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More Federal Workers are Telecommuting

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the I'm-staying-home-today dept.

Businesses 79

An anonymous reader writes "Boosting the ranks of federal employees who telework is a slow, sometimes painful process, despite numerous incentives and legislative edicts lobbed at U.S. agencies over the years. Take the situation at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which last month was ordered by a federal arbitration panel to allow its legal instrument examiners to telework on a pilot basis. ATF was against letting these specialists telework because it says the material they need to remove from agency offices in order to telework posed a security risk. The Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) became involved at the request of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which successfully argued its case for allowing the examiners to telework on a pilot basis."

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79 comments

...except the niggers. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161586)

They can't figure out computers. Also, they cause crime.

RON PAUL '08

AC-troll-wanna-be needs help!!!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162300)

How do you make so many AC posts in such a short amount of time? I've tried this using proxies, but slahsdot's proxy-filter keeps me from spamming as good as you.

"Federal worker" an oxymoron (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161604)

Like "jumbo shrimp" or "employed nigger".

vote ron paul

I wish I had the option to telecommute (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161616)

I have to encounter the occasional nigger in the office, usually in the bathroom giving me hot towels. Can't say I like that very much.

Ron Paul 2008

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161634)

Frist Psot

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22165516)

Y0U FA17 1T

BATF to be expanded to BATFN (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161646)

When I am elected, it will oversee the necessary regulation of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and niggers. It's against my political philosophy, but I feel it's necessary.

Ron Paul

Heath Ledger can no longer telecommute :( (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161664)

Nor buttfuck :(
RIP Heath :(

Discourage those staying behind? (3, Insightful)

primadd (1215814) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161710)

As this sbc article [smallbusin...puting.com] details, those left behind find it "less personally fulfilling to do their work".
So how exactly is this a good thing, unless you plan on having no office at all - which is not quite feasible.

--
cool customizeable social bookmarkign widget for your site [primadd.net]

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (1)

gotzero (1177159) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161802)

Seeing some of the people walking out of Gov offices, I think working at home might save the ones that can do it! Remote access has made me happy, not to work from home, but to be able to catch up on e-mail and stuff on something besides the blackberry... I do think you have to be careful who you let telecommute though, and keep the ability to call them in at any time. I could productivity dive if there were not some pretty draconian measures.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (0, Flamebait)

Raven17 (32332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163872)

Why the hell not let them? They already do nothing all ay long, might as well keep them off the road clogging up the freeways and out of the coffee line in the morning.

That way the last 3 people in America with "real jobs" can get to work on time!

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (2, Interesting)

netruner (588721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161994)

I once worked in a department that allowed telecommuting - my boss made everyone in our workgroup sign up for it - not so we could work from home as opposed to from the office, but so we could work from the office and work from home. My team lead was working a full day at the office and dealing with the builds at night from home. Whatever they were paying him, it wasn't enough to put up with that nonsense. So the abuse can go both ways.

BTW - the boss was a total Lumbergh - yes, he would place demands on Friday afternoon for us to work weekends. I don't work in that group any more.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (2, Insightful)

Wansu (846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162950)


  My team lead was working a full day at the office and dealing with the builds at night from home. Whatever they were paying him, it wasn't enough to put up with that nonsense. So the abuse can go both ways.

That's the way my last boss treated telecommuting, as a supplement rather than as a substitute. And here's the kicker, I was working on nightly builds. Mine was the only group in a large company compelled to work scheduled, rotating shifts of uncompensated overtime. Either you were up until 2 or 3am tending to the builds and all the stuff that could and would go wrong or you had to get up at oh-dark-thirty to mop up and fix whatever carnage remained. At least with telecommuting, I only had to get out of bed and sit at my computer but I was still putting in extra time at the office too. But the boss didn't consider it real work and had no compunction about imposing on what had been your private life. Yeah, it was Lumbergh-a-rama. It was common to be awakened by the phone at 4AM, just after I'd fallen asleep. The pointy headed boss called me one time when I was in the middle of taking a massive dump. I wondered whether he could hear my voice reverberating off the bathroom tiles or splashing sounds.

Bottom line: Telecommuting can be a shackle as well as a quality of life improvement.

Also, don't ever let yourself be roped into tending to nightly builds. It is a thankless task.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (2, Funny)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165608)

Call him. Every single time something goes wrong, anywhere, for any member of the team, they call him. If something looks unusual, call him. If something looks perfectly normal, call him and let him know things are "back on track." He wants his shop running 24 hours a day? He's on call 24 hours a day. He doesn't answer the phone? Leave voice mail and stop working until he calls back. You ain't sleepin'? He ain't sleepin'. Either he gets the message or at least you get to torment him until the moment you quit. Now if he's a skilled enough asshole you lose your next merit increase for requiring excessive supervision, you and your whole team. But that can be circumvented in many delightful ways, up to and including quitting en masse. I say en masse but don't do it at the exact same moment. One of you should quit every half hour, starting around midnight, and call him.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (2, Insightful)

microTodd (240390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22166206)

The pointy headed boss called me one time when I was in the middle of taking a massive dump.

Why, oh why, in the world did you ANSWER THE PHONE?

A Good Compromise (1)

Teckla (630646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162096)

A good compromise might be to allow workers to telecommute 20% of the time (1 day per week). Give everyone that freedom, and nobody can complain. Plus, you'd still have plenty of "face time" with your co-workers.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (1)

RockedMan40 (1130729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165246)

Well, in the DC area if more telecommuting were permitted, it might make a dent on traffic. You could certainly tell the "compressed work schedule' days when that was a big thing. (DoD still on that?)

Now, productivity? In quite a few cases I can think of, they goverment-types don't produce anything useful except fertiziler and CO2 anyway - so not having them bug me in person every day does improve MY productivity! At least I don't feel quite so grumpy when I go home.

Re:Discourage those staying behind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22170632)

Please put your spam in your signature where I don't have to see it.

Thanks.

Danger to your data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22161714)

Well I think a valid concern was raised. Telecommuting and data security.

Um... (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161732)

The Federal Service Impasses Panel?

Am I the only one here who thinks the existence of that agency is the real story?

Re:Um... (4, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162352)

They've [flra.gov] been around since the 1970s, and appear to be a "disinterested 3rd party" that mediates disputes between federal agencies and the unions which have reached an impasse.

They're part of the FLRA, which is the larger body that is an umbrella organization for dealing with labor issues within the federal government.

It's not particularly surprising that such a body exists. I'd be more surprised if it didn't.

Re:Um... (1)

truesaer (135079) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162462)

It only seems weird because it has an official name. It's the people in the government who negotiate with union employees. Everyone who employs union employees has people who deal with conflicts, just without a fancy name.

If I worked for the government... (1)

psychicsword (1036852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161778)

If I worked for the government I would too I mean all the easier to spend tax payers' money on improving my house :P

Re:If I worked for the government... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22165970)

Try not to be such an idiot.

I telecommute almost every week (5, Insightful)

LinDVD (986467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161814)

As an employee of the USCG, I am allowed to telecommute one day a week, every week on any regular 5-day work week. Any Ensign (O-series) and higher, 3rd class Petty Officer (E-series) and higher and all GS-7's and higher can do telecommuting, pending supervisory (permission is granted from supervisory GS-12's or GS-13's) and network security approval. Non-rates and the majority of contractors don't get assigned a security token, and therefore don't get the privilege. Now I can't speak for other Federal agencies of course...

Re:I telecommute almost every week (4, Interesting)

squidfood (149212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162174)

Now I can't speak for other Federal agencies of course...

It varies not just by Agency, but by division, line office, supervisor all the way down. Where I work in NOAA is even more flexible for many, especially scientific personnel (2 or even 3 days/week is not uncommon), with plenty of resources to make it work. Been doing this for a couple years, though recent across-the-board laptop security issues (changes driven from the top after some of the well-publicized losses in other agencies) has made it harder.

Re:I telecommute almost every week (2, Funny)

wronskyMan (676763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163342)

I hope by O's/Petty Officers you don't let the pilots and rescue swimmers telecommute - I like them to be there when they are picking me out of the ocean :)

Re:I telecommute almost every week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22179090)

I have almost worked one year from home. (i was also recovering from brain injury, so i had to work from home)
Working in the IT sector, i never tought it was possible.
However once you realize you have a phone, Email and a screen and you can tele-type in computerscreens around the world.
Well then you gonna realize that, there are a lot of people doing it allready and it is just still the same job.
Less distraction from co-workers (less smoke and cofee breaks (oke we dont have firearms breaks in the netherlands).

It's only a change of attitude realizing a job isnt something which means you have to sit down on a office chair for 8 hours. Also that chair costs quite a lot (a whole building in fact). Well in the past there have been companies who refused to use a phone; those companies ofcourse never made it.
In this new area where we have to do everything a cheap as possible, it will turn out that hiring office buildings is too expensive those companies who will strongly make use of teleworkers will be tomorows winning companies. Because that means less costs for the company.

And you now what you even wont support terrorist oil states by not using your car.
And as a bonus you produce less CO2

Over at CTU Los Angeles... (2, Funny)

MacarooMac (1222684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161882)

[Erin Driscoll] "Jack, start prepping a team for an assault on the east wing. Edgar- where's Chloe? Find her and tell her to open a new socket in the server room as a new priority."
[Edgar Stiles] "Chloe's.. erm.. working from home today, Miss Driscoll..."

This is definitely an improvement (2, Funny)

intrico (100334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161914)

They are helping the environment by being unproductive at home, rather than going into the office to be unproductive.

Re:This is definitely an improvement (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162066)

Fuck You.

Re:This is definitely an improvement (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162934)

Contrary to popular belief (including the person who commented above), some Federal employees/contractors are very productive when telecommuting from home. I telecommuted twice in my service as a contractor to two different Federal agencies -- at the first agency, I worked from home one day a week and was able to work uninterrupted for 12 hours straight (eliminating a 4 hour round trip commute) which enabled me to get a lot of extra work completed. At the second agency, I telecommuted full-time for 6 months and was able to complete a large number of projects ahead of schedule with no interruptions. I saved the environment by not spewing noxious fumes into the air for 3 hours a day and I contributed to our national security by significantly reducing my foreign oil intake. Prior to telecommuting at either agency, I worked in the office for an extended period and proved myself to management. When I started working at home, I had to develop an extensive productivity tracking system to prove that I was getting things done, but I never had any issues accounting for all of my time. The American public is safer because of the work that I did while I was telecommuting and I feel proud knowing that my work keeps millions of my fellow citizens as well as visitors to our great country safe each day.

Re:This is definitely an improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22163226)

i 'telecommute', and i end up just playing WoW all day. =(

Not surprising (1, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161916)

I don't see a problem with federal workers telecommuting,... especially considering that the big boss [wikipedia.org] technically "telecommutes". Of course, if my employer would give me a house [whitehouse.gov], I'd probably work from home, too,... Then again, on the negative side, he's arguably one of the least productive federal workers, so he's probably screwing up the whole telecommuting thing for everyone else!

Re:Not surprising (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162294)

Then again, on the negative side, he's arguably one of the least productive federal workers, so he's probably screwing up the whole telecommuting thing for everyone else!

are you insane? do you realize how much brush he has cleared from Texas during his term???

The man is incredibly productive! Plus he decimated a country in the middle east, and destroyed major parts of the constitution as well. What have you done in the past 8 years?

Re:Not surprising (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165942)

Plus he decimated a country in the middle east, and destroyed major parts of the constitution as well.

Decimated a country in the middle east?! Heck! He practically decimated his own country's economy! That's it! I now declare that telecommuters are destroying America! This practice must end, NOW! :-)

Re:Not surprising (2, Informative)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162342)

I know you're trying to make a funny, but it's more accurate to say that the President lives in a house with an attached office building than to say he works from home. As for Crawford, the government spends millions not only making it usable as a "Western White House", but also making sure the President isn't assassinated whenever he goes there.

Then again, Jefferson did more work in Monticello than he did in the White House. He was perhaps the original telecommuter, not to mention the inventor of the swivel chair and the man primarily responsible for eliminating the stigma of tomatoes in America.

Re:Not surprising (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163230)

> especially considering that the big boss technically "telecommutes"

No, that's called "phoning it in".

Telecommuting should be the norm... (2, Interesting)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161928)

...not the exception, at least for certain positions and personality types.

Telecommuters drive less, so there's less pollution and traffic. With the right people, telecommuting can enhance productivity and job satisfaction.

I feel strongly about this, having been a FT telecommuting programmer for the past 5+ years. I love working with hours of uninterrupted concentration. Whenever I do have to go into the office, I'm surrounded by distractions, especially from coworkers who bullshit incessantly.

YMMV of course. Certain jobs (customer contact, security, etc) may not qualify, and there are obviously people who do *better* in an office setting. For many cases, though, going into the office is more of a control/domination mechanism than having anything to do with actual "work."

They just want dumb asses in seats, which is probably why the feds are slow to adopt telework.

Re:Telecommuting should be the norm... (2, Interesting)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162824)

Whenever I do have to go into the office, I'm surrounded by distractions

I appreciate that you've already stated there are people who do better in an office setting, but I still find it interesting that so many of comments I've read on Slashdot are strongly in favour of telecommuting.

I quite enjoy going to work. It's a 40 minute walk (which is an excuse to go for a reasonable walk a couple of times a day), and being at work puts me in the frame of mind for doing work-related things. Having people around who are also doing work really helps to motivate me. If I'm at home, I usually find it very hard to concentrate on work topics because I'm surrounded by non-work things, and sometimes people who want my attention for non-work things. Home tends to be where I like to relax more, and that's usually the frame of mind I'm in when I'm there.

We do have people who like to telecommute, particularly if they live a long way out of town or have kids or whatever, but I don't think I'd do well to be one of them.

Re:Telecommuting should be the norm... (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22164082)

It can suddenly change if one has to depart. For example to visit a sick parent sever thousand kilometers away.

Instead of losing productivity, or the job, one can just work via telecommuting for 2 weeks. With VPN it does not make any difference where you sit. Do not dismiss this great innovation, it can well come handy one day. Better learn how to use the VPN access and have your working place prepared for an emergency departure.

Re:Telecommuting should be the norm... (1)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165176)

Having people around who are also doing work really helps to motivate me
That is true. Maybe the most important of all is the type of workplace you're in.

If I'm working on a really difficult project that requires deep concentration, I know it'll never get done when there are people around me yammering on the phones, conversing about people's personal life, asking me about last night's "American Idol" episode, begging me to buy girl scout cookies, watching youtube videos, laughing about my bad "engineer hair," etc.

Damn. I just convinced myself I need a new job.

Home tends to be where I like to relax more, and that's usually the frame of mind I'm in when I'm there.
See, you hit on one of my (and perhaps others') weaknesses: spillover from work into personal life. I usually think about work or work-ish things when I'm home (whether I'm in a telecommuting job or not), and spend most of my evenings and "free time" reading journals, messing around at the computer, etc. Maybe that's why telecommuting seems to be such a no-brainer.

Re:Telecommuting should be the norm... (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163152)

The gov't already has an OMB mandate to have a certain percentage of each agencies workers telecommute. I don't recall the details but I've seen documentation since I'm a contractor for one of the agencies. The OMB mandate is a few years old but it takes time to create policies and procedures and to determine just who can do stuff at home and who can't because of security issues. Many people in the DOD and DOJ branches deal with sensitive data and the data resides on private internal networks so working from home just isn't possible. In other cases, some employees can do so (like HR) but these things still need planned and they are in addition to normal operations/maintenance and business responsiblities, plus we all know the speed at which the US gov't implements change.

The logistics of this are also complicated because users should have the capability to still be reached using their office phone number so some changes have to be implemented in PBX systems so calls to their office phone are redirected to their home. Also, the federal gov't isn't just in DC but in suburban areas and those aren't always able to provide nice broadband connections to users who work from home. Plus, who is responsible for providing all the equipment? The gov't? The user? Security is bad enough within gov't buildings; it is going to be a nightmare when users can take a laptop home or have a PC at home full time owned by the feds. Users don't lock their PCs now when they leave their desk. All of Johnny's friends will love to see what's on mom's PC when she has to pick up Johnny's sister from soccer practice since they know she works for the NSA. You think stolen data is a problem now? The data is just waiting to be stolen when it is sitting in a cache on a telecommuters hard drive.

I already... (4, Funny)

Urger (817972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22161934)

I already do Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms at home, often all at once. They could just hire me and boost their numbers accordingly.

I think they should go slow on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162008)

Any time you have a policy encouraging telecommuting, you are going to get some abuse: people working multiple jobs, or working 15 hours a week and getting paid for 40, or not working at all. Some might actually be on a cruise ship while they're supposedly telecommuting. In the case of the government, the stories will be picked up by the newspapers and then by the bloggers, and will result in even more cynicism directed towards government than we have already. If that's even possible!

Re:I think they should go slow on this (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22164060)

One would have a hard time working 15 hours a week instead of 40, if a program like, say, Skype is installed on the PC.

The supervisor can actually see the worker.

It is also possible to view the desktop via a remote access.

With a line of 3 MB/s anything is possible. A worker can work on a computer in the office via remote access. And a supervisor can just sit near the wall of displays watching what everyone is doing, if a discipline is a problem. Or having 20 small rectangles on his display with a possibility to zoom in on a particular PC.

However it is better to use the right motivation and right person. So that he/she is interested in a result of the work.

Commuting (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162084)

Government workers are already very good at commuting: no matter what the order their numbers always multiply. So telecommuting shouldn't be that hard for them.

Security please! (2, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162192)

I can only hope (because I doubt that I can expect) that these telecommuting workers use encrypted datafiles, well-secured "work-only" home-office PCs, multi-factor authentication, non-wireless internet connections, etc. I'm sure any number of people would love to gain access to government data or databases.

Re:Security please! (1)

squidfood (149212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162348)

I'm sure any number of people would love to gain access to government data or databases.

My agency was and is quite proactive at promoting telecommuting, trip reduction, alternate transport (good thing too... NOAA is somewhat concerned with climate issues...) but admittedly lagged behind in security. But this is also mindset: we are all academic-minded research-lab types working with public data (e.g. satellite info) and we like to make work public, so getting the security issues were a second priority.

Encryption? Sure, no biggie (late following the Socical Security boo-boos but no losses). VPNs? Ok. Higher security? You mean, I don't have admin passwords to install my favorite Open Source Unix tools (we're all geeks), wait a minute, public information wants to be free! Of course, it's when that sort of "free" information is mixed with non-free information (e.g. HR department info) that the trouble comes up... problem is, big agencies tend to be reactive... do nothing and then overreact when the crisis arises. Of course, that's the general public, too.

Re:Security please! (1)

ValentineMSmith (670074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162892)

Well, I can tell you that my agency uses fully-encrypted hard drives on laptops. If you have a "work-only" home-office PC, it has to be fully encrypted as well and has to meet the same standards that the laptops would. All connections to the office are via VPN (and the VPN software is very careful to shut down all other network adapters, which means I have to log off of the VPN before I can print to the shared printer at my house).

Thumb drives and floppy drives are completely disallowed as well.

Lessons were learned from the fiascoes of recent years.

Caveat (1)

ValentineMSmith (670074) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162906)

You can get a thumb drive, but it has to be fully encrypted as well, and you have to have supervisory approval to even request one.

Which means, at my level, they're completely disallowed. But then, I don't have any access to sensitive information anyway.

Security (1)

LinDVD (986467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22164334)

Well, speaking only for the USCG, we use a Nortel VPN for the client software plus a CAC (Common Access Card) reader for connecting to standard workstations. The CAC is the standard Federal government ID card. Wireless connections and PoE are not allowed, but it takes the network security staff about 20 minutes before they drop the connection for various reasons-if you violate the policy multiple times in a row, your rights to telecommute are removed and are not easy to get back even if your supervisor tries to clear you again. In addition, network security has only authorized some broadband providers, although I've tested other "non-approved" broadband providers on an irregular basis, and they have yet to shut me down.

Re:Security please! (1)

RockedMan40 (1130729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165330)

Encrypted datafiles
    - No, although some effort is being made to only allow access to files on the server, and not allow them to print 'work' items on 'home' printer.

Well-secured "work-only" home-office PCs
    - BWWWAAA HA HA HA HA HA. Not a chance. Sorry, don't mean to be rude, but that is pretty much laughable.

Multi-Factor Authentication
    -YES - the one thing they are getting right! Most are going with RSA keys that change every 'x' seconds.

Non-Wirelss Internet connections
    -See reply #2. Again, there is 'some' effort to shut down dual access, so you can't be on VPN and 'home-internet' at the same time. If you need Internet access you use the work gateway and firewall via the VPN. I think the horrible performance of VPN'ing over a 802.11b connection (open bad performance, encrypted even worse) would do more to shift things to hard line connections than anything else.

No ubiquitous encryption? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22166036)

What agency do you work for? Whoever they are, they're over a year late instituting the White House directive that mandates whole disk encryption on any computer that leaves the office.

Serously, what agency do you work for?

Re:Security please! (1)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165984)

I'm over-simplifying this, granted, but sometimes I feel like my data is safer at home, at least from a physical perspective. If someone is wandering around my house that I don't know, it raises the level of alert, so to speak, and I would do something like call the police or shoot them. If someone is wandering around my office that I don't know, I couldn't care less. It happened (when I had an office) every day. Yes - I recognize there's a lot more to security than random strangers wandering around doing social engineering, etc.

Federal Telecommuting Made Easy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162510)

I can do it, too. Just pick up any phone, anywhere, and say the following words in any particular order: "terrorist Iraq Al Qaeda" and you'll instantly be connected to your neighborhood friendly NSA agent, ready and willing to connect you to your party!

The neighbors are against it... (1, Funny)

ericferris (1087061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162538)

From TFA:

ATF was against letting these specialists telework because it says the material they need to remove from agency offices in order to telework posed a security risk.

I can see why. I mean, the poor guys need to bring work home, obviously. In case you do'nt know what the ATF does, it turns out that this is the Official Agency that solves the big problem created by alcohol, firearms and tobacco. I went to their web site and it's kinda technical -- it has to do with seizing stuff and closing down places, I'm not sure I understood all the jargon. But obviously, someone has to consume all that seized wood alcohol and those contraband cigarettes, while testing these confiscated firearms.

Which lets us picture the average ATF telecommuter, in a corner of his living room, working from home for the ATF, drinking seized gutrot moonshine, smoking Chinaese-made fake Marlboros, and shooting a deer silhouette adorned with his ex-wife portrait with confiscated AK-74 imitations.

Of course, it's a security risk!

And you wonder why the neighbors don't want more telecommuting Federal employees?

Telecommuting sucks (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22162562)

I am an IT professional. I have had to work in telecommuting heavy environments. While a small dash might allow you to get work done when you would otherwise have to take vacation (such as blizzard-like conditions), overall I have yet to meet an effective telecommuter. Pretty much all of them suddenly become a lot less effective at their jobs and a great hindrance to everyone else's jobs.

I suppose there might be some kind of tele-fu style that allows a telecommuting worker to be effective and subtle while striking from a great distance. But generally people aren't around for meetings, aren't around for ad-hoc conversations, are always less informed than people that are regularly in the office (I wonder why?), and in a few instances of direct observation are less productive than before they got telecommuting privilage.

Fine, people are giddy happy that they can work without actually showing up for work or paying attention to what's going on. Great for the worker satisfaction or some shit of the telecommuter. But as someone who has to work with these people telecommuting sucks.

Re:Telecommuting sucks (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22164002)

There are more effective and cheaper ways to spread information than physical meetings and ad-hoc conversations.

Someone who has to work with these people telecommuting could arrange net meetings, say, via Skype, internal discussion forums, etc. It is more effective than flying or driving people around for meetings.

But because there are backward people still in the organizations, the telecommuting sucks for such organizations. They either will have to change, or die out before long from the market. Because moving electrons around is cheaper than protons.

Re:Telecommuting sucks (1)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 6 years ago | (#22169072)

I've noticed that people who oppose telecommuting are the same people that need constant "management" and "training" and being "in the loop", and accuse the telecommuters of not paying attention to what's going on, become ineffective, etc.

I think what's being seen is how much uselessness actually goes on in companies, and what's revealed when the victims of that uselessness stop showing up.

I'e noticed, in my meandering experience, that most companies are held together by a few winners and a crap load of losers. The people that want to stay home, do the actual fifteen minutes of work that their job requires once all the idiocy strips away, are generally winners. They get things done. They manage their time. They DON'T want to be subjected to morons who won't do their jobs. They are smart enough to cram "real" work into the shortest amount of time.

Those who don't like others telecommuting want lots of ad hoc meetings, conference calls, in person meetings, etc. They are, I assume, terrified of asynchronous communication methods like email or voicemail. The other option perhaps is that they are unable to do anything useful whatsoever, and like lots of social time, ad hoc meetings to get info for them to do their jobs correctly, or like to position themselves in the organization. When the winner stop showing up to help losers to their job and take credit, they get all "itchy" and have mental breakdowns.

Am I alone here? Is it just the one loser who telecommutes or is it mostly those who can do their job independently, quickly, are self-reliant, and able to work without micromanagement? You know, like the job posting always asks for but the company actively prevents?

ATF should be abolished (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22162858)

Alcohol and tobacco should be regulated by the FDA, and firearms and explosives by the FBI.


Every federal agency should have to periodically justify its existence and some should be abolished. An agency can be outdated or it's functions better done by another agency or the states. Unfortunately the federal government has become a jobs program.

Jobs should be abolished (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22163406)

"Unfortunately the federal government has become a jobs program."

Thankfully the private sector has lead the way with it's "jobs to India" program.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Re:ATF should be abolished (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165476)

You know how much fun it is to reorganize a business with department heads fighting for turf? The government is so much worse, that by the time you're done you wish you never started. After a while, they learn.

You're right, but... (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22166102)

There's a problem with trying to abolish the BATFE. Some years ago, ATF abuses got so severe toward firearms license holders and other gun owners that Congressional hearing were held. Congress was leaning toward exactly the sort of breakup you describe. FBI quashed the whole idea by throwing a fit.

Special Agents in the BATFE are, you must understand, essentially the bottom of the barrel of federal law enforcement. Badge-heavy and generally less than competent, the guys who get a badge there are the ones who couldn't get a job with any other agency (except for a few *really* small agencies, like the Railroad Retirement Board). The FBI was mortified that they would be forced to take on board a large number of SAs who were such fuckups. FBI screamed; Congress deferred. Congress agreed not to poison FBI ranks with those clowns and instead gave the ATF some slaps on the wrist and a bit of a reorganization. And everybody went back to work.

Frankly, the only competent SA with BATF that I've ever had a chance to talk to (we used to have the occasional casual conversation over morning caffeine at the office building deli and it was easy to see that this guy was quietly, strongly competent and completely unlike his cowboy-wannabe fellow SAs) was killed in the raid at Waco. BATFE has plenty of sharp folks as, for example, examiners on the tech side but their in-the-field SAs are a remarkably "Reno 911"-esque bunch, just minus all the humorous stuff.

Re:ATF should be abolished (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22166162)

Every federal agency should have to periodically justify its existence and some should be abolished. An agency can be outdated or it's functions better done by another agency or the states. Unfortunately the federal government has become a jobs program.

I've always thought that its been that way since the whole New Deal thing.

Re:ATF should be abolished (1)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22169412)

Every federal agency should have to periodically justify its existence and some should be abolished. An agency can be outdated or it's functions better done by another agency or the states. Unfortunately the federal government has become a jobs program.

Yeah, I think it's been that way for a long, long time though. I started wondering, when hearing proposals for radical tax simplification which would all but eliminate the IRS (Flat Tax, Fair Tax, whatever you want to call it) - has there ever been a case where a significantly large government agency was either eliminated entirely, or massively downsized? I know of a few that got renamed or re-purposed or re-orged, but not in such a way that their size decreased substantially.

This makes me nervous about advocating any new federal roles or departments, like getting a tattoo - it may seem like a great idea now, but it's permanent. But then, I don't have an exhaustive knowledge of federal agency history, and I may be wrong. Does anyone know of a case where a major agency was downsized or eliminated?

Nice idea (1)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163502)

I think having the freedom to work at home, at least for part of the time, is a huge benefit. Having this option is one of the reasons I haven't gone for a higher-paying job -- it's a perk I'm willing to "pay for."

Cutting out the miserable commutes that many of us have to endure is a major quality-of-life booster. Every day I don't spend that 3 hours in traffic or on the train is more enjoyable. Plus, we reduce our foreign oil dependence. For jobs like mine, it's actually a huge help not having to be around the office distracted by coworkers gossiping or asking questions.

There will always be jokers who ruin it for everyone, but definitely do it when you're given the ability.

Here's one question -- when and if telecommuting becomes the norm, what are we going to do about the major "class disparity" that will be present between office workers and service workers? If you have to physically go to your job, and your neighbor doesn't, aren't you going to be really unhappy about that? How is work going to change?

Re:Nice idea (1)

Max_W (812974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22163912)

The major "class disparity" that will be present between office workers and service workers could be reduced by the change of the technology of things, which must be serviced.

For example, the car service could be partly done by telecommuting, if the car computer constructed in such a way that it allows a Wi-Fi connection for diagnostics.

The construction of everything should be done with telecommuting in mind.

"Telecommute" is the problem, not the solution (2, Interesting)

Von Helmet (727753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22165698)

"Telecommute" is a stupid word - the literal meaning of the word is completely at odds with the meaning of the word as it is used. Telecommute means to travel a long distance. Tele means far, commute means to travel, particularly to work. Hence telecommute means to travel a long distance to work. The roots are similar to television (literally far seeing) and telephone (lterally far hearing).

However, telecommuting - as the word is used - is the problem, not the solution. The problem is having to commute a long way to work. The solution is using technology to allow you to work from home, which is not what telecommute means at all. Obviously whoever coined the word thought "tele" sounded suitably technological, so decided to use that. A far better word for the solution would be "e-commuting" or something similar, even if it does involve the much overused "e-" prefix. At least that would make sense.

Stupid English language...

Dilbert rides again... (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22166104)

Wasn't there a Dilbert comic a few years back, where Dogbert described his dream job to the boss...

Pointy-Haired Boss: "So, you'd stay at home and we'd send you checks?"

Dogbert: "Actually, I was hoping for direct deposit."

US government to be outsourced? (1)

lpq (583377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22179198)

Isn't telecommuting the first step toward being outsourced? I mean if you can do it from home, you can do it from India, or China...where-ever. How long before government functions are outsourced to lower-paid workers in other countries? Or are government salaries low enough to not be at risk for cheaper outsourcing? ;^/

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