Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) employees are calling on the agency to expand its telework and remote work program with half ready to leave the agency tomorrow for a job that offers more telework and remote work opportunities.
FERC employees are largely highly skilled professionals engaged in matters related to energy regulation, including biologists, engineers, economists, administrative assistants, and attorneys.
The employees are represented by AFGE Local 421, which recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 bargaining unit employees and found that more than half of the employees would leave the agency tomorrow for a job with more telework and remote work. In fact, about half are already looking.
“It's hard to imagine how losing that much talent and expertise wouldn't be devastating for the agency. Increasing workplace flexibilities is good for the agency and good for employees,” Local 421 President Robin Cleland said. “The pandemic proved that we can provide exceptional service with maximum workplace flexibilities - flexibilities that have become so tremendously important to employees that they are willing to walk to get them.”
Due to COVID-19, FERC employees were on 100% telework for more than two years. During that time, the agency was more effective and productive than ever in achieving its mission.
Employees worked better as they did not have to spend, in many cases, 3-4 hours a day commuting. They felt healthier as they were able to sleep more and exercise more. They got more time for their family and leisure activities.
But the agency returned to in-person work in September 2022 without the telework and remote work expansion that employees wanted to see.
“People rightly asked, why do I need to waste 3 hours of my day getting to the office when I don't need to?” said Cleland. “Telework and remote work are win-win. Employees get more of their day back to do what they want; the agency gets a more productive and motivated workforce. OPM allows agencies to offer considerable workplace flexibilities. When we returned to work, FERC wasn't offering that. Why not? So far, we haven't heard any rational reason why not.”
The local launched a campaign to expand the telework program as part of the ongoing contract negotiations. The goal is to get the maximum allowable workplace flexibilities into its new contract, including allowing all eligible employees to telework up to 8 days per pay period and allowing supervisors the discretion to convert any eligible position to a remote position without any arbitrary caps on either telework or remote work.