In surveys conducted by our union, federal employees have been consistent in saying that increased telework has helped their agencies in a variety of ways. Now, new guidance from OMB is recognizing the positive benefits of telework as part of an effort to establish a new normal after the national emergencies and public health emergencies around COVID-19 officially come to an end.
In response to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) memo directing agencies to increase in-person work at federal offices, AFGE said the guidance’s acknowledgement of the benefits of increased telework outside of the pandemic context were welcome.
OMB’s memo, issued April 13, directed agencies to update and describe their telework policies as well as monitor the impact of changes. OMB expects agencies to increase what the memo terms “meaningful” in-person work – noting that in-person work should be “purposeful, well-planned, and optimized for in-person collaboration.”
“It is the expectation that as a part of these assessments agencies will continue to substantially increase meaningful in-person work at Federal offices, particularly at headquarters and equivalents, while still using flexible operational policies as an important tool in talent recruitment and retention,” the OMB memo says. “Planning should recognize that some operating units have improved performance while using workplace flexibilities, while also optimizing in-person work and strong, sustainable organization health and culture.”
AFGE noted our union has reached agreements through collective bargaining at several agencies that have increased telework from pre-pandemic levels to help agencies recruit and retain talent, be more productive, and effectively deliver on their missions for the American people.
“We look forward to continuing to participate in that process at the appropriate level and reaching agreements that meet the operational needs of federal agencies,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “We think there is a solution that will protect productivity gains associated with telework as well as the ability to recruit and retain the next generation of government employees in a competitive labor market.”
“As agencies embark on this effort, we must not forget that federal employees show up to work for the American people every day – whether at a government office or remotely,” Kelley added. “Indeed, during the worst days of the pandemic, continuity of government operations was only possible thanks to the widespread expansion of telework that allowed civil servants to get the job done no matter where they were located.”