Federal agencies need to start planning for a more decentralized work force. Part of this planning should be to carefully evaluate position descriptions with particular attention to job location. My employer recently changed my duty station, obligating $75,000 in relocation funds for me to move ~600 miles. I chose not to move my family or sell my house and instead rented an apartment near my new duty station. This decision saved most of the relocation cost – approximately $70,000 – but came at significant personal and financial sacrifice.
A more prudent solution – for federal agencies, employees, and the taxpaying public – would be for federal employers to carefully consider the costs and benefits before deciding to relocate employees. In my case, there was no change in job description, and my performance had been fully successful to outstanding before the move. Given the ease and flexibility of electronic communications in today’s world, many federal jobs can be accomplished very effectively from remote locations. This is a key concept driving the Telework Enhancement Act.
Clearly, there will be growing pains resulting from the transition to a more flexible, dispersed work force. However, this investment will pay dividends as federal agencies increasingly compete with private businesses to recruit and retain the best talent. The cost savings to taxpayers could be substantial, approaching $1 million for every 10 employees or new hires not required to relocate. These savings can be sown back into agency missions, supporting many FTE’s in the process.