Monday, May 14, 2018

Jobs and Telework

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed telework rules for thousands of its employees. The Washington Post [March 18, 2018] quoted a USDA spokesperson that “USDA’s telework policy is designed to be responsible to the taxpayers and responsive to the customers who depend on our services. It is also respectful of our fellow employees who come to work each day.” The change in policy promotes “USDA as one family working together as a single team to serve the American people.” House Representative Gerald Connolly from a nearby Virginia House District co-sponsored the telecommuting rules back in 2010; he called the changes a retrograde move.

The Office of Personnel Management reported a steady increase in the share of Federal Workers who telecommute, which now stands at 20 to 22 percent. Telecommuting helps relieve serious traffic congestion for commuters. I-95 into the District has an average of 23 traffic jams a day. Based on telecommuting data from USDA around Washington the new rules will add 42,000 trips a week to area commuters.

The March 18 article in the Washington Post spawned several letters to the editor. One claimed “Teleworking is a scam” because employees on site are far more productive working together and there should be no special privileges allowing employees to make the same income as those who show up everyday. Another person wrote in that working at home increased his productivity because office distractions made it hard to work. He wore head phones with piped in music to minimize “working together.”

Weary commuters spending hours a day sitting on a cement slab lookin’ up some guy’s tail pipe will recognize a subplot here. Work could be about getting work done, accomplishing necessary tasks, rather than how and where the work gets done. For authoritarian bosses work should be suffering and so they want to see all their underlings dutifully sitting in their office warming up a chair. The authoritarian boss always thinks other people cheat; no one can be trusted to do what they’re supposed to do. They have rules: no reading newspapers, no personal emails, no breaks. Anyone not in their plasterboard cubicle must be malingering, or possibly having fun.

Somehow it fits right in for the Trump people where authority and form counts and substance does not.