Have you heard of the Telework Enhancement Act? It was signed by President Obama in December 2010, and requires each Federal agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees can telework and mandates that each agency determine the eligibility for all of its employees to participate in telework, among other things. However, the Telework Enhancement Act does not apply to Congress, and it should too. They are part of the Federal government and shouldn’t be exempt from this act. Here’s why Congress should incorporate telecommuting into their work schedules also:
They Can Have More Meetings with Constituents
Besides the August recess, it’s tough to be have a meeting with your Senator or Representative about the big issues of the day. Even if you do try to have a meeting any other time of the year, most of the time you just end up speaking with an aide and pray that the message gets to your Senator or Representative and get a favorable response. Telecommuting can change that by allowing these people to meet with constituents via teleconferencing and to listen to more of the people they represent.
This would be a huge plus for those who can’t possibly make the trip to Washington to lobby and would give more of the general public a chance to have their voices heard in Congress. It would also increase the flexibility of when Congress members could meet and how often they could meet with people.
Of course, implementing this will take some investment, but once the investment is made there will be reduced costs across the board. Congress won’t have to travel as often, whether it’s to their home states or districts or to other locations across the country, so there would be reduced travel costs and reduced carbon emissions. By staying in one place or another more often, we could also reduce our office space costs and/or our utility costs (virtual offices are much cheaper than traditional offices). After all, our Federal government is looking for ways to cut spending, and cutting its spending on itself should be included as part of the solution.
Our Government Could Use an Update
What better way to bring our government (and its officials) into the 21st century than through 21st century workplace tools like teleconferencing and virtual office solutions? An increased familiarity with these workplace options would put our officials more in-touch with how America is operating today and more in-touch with technology and how it could possibly affect public policy. These types of tools could also make our government more efficient and more expedient, which would be nice considering that big issues need to get solved as solutions are continually put off.
Keep in mind that this act doesn’t mandate teleworking for Federal employees, so no Federal agency has to implement the policy, and Congress doesn’t have to either. But, telecommuting has received a lot of attention recently as a cost-effective and productive way to work, as we’ve shown, there would be benefits to Congress telecommuting or at least making it easier for Senators and Representatives to work more closely with their home states and districts. And, of course, who wouldn’t want the Federal government to be more productive and cost-effective?