A recent federal employee survey shows telework has improved productivity, in line with what the Office of Personnel Management director told Congress in a congressional hearing last month.
AFGE released the results of a nationwide survey of federal employees that sought to understand the attitudes of rank-and-file federal employees toward telework.
“Overwhelmingly, federal employees are saying that increased telework has improved government productivity, and they are worried that telework rollbacks will exacerbate agency backlogs caused by budget cuts and understaffing,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “These civil servants show up every day to deliver government services to the American people – whether in a physical office or remotely. As lawmakers, policymakers, and agency leadership discuss the future of telework, the voices and concerns of rank-and-file federal employees deserve to be heard.”
Key findings from the survey include:
- Telework has increased productivity
A total of 71.2% of respondents reported telework had improved productivity at their agency a great deal. Another 16.3% said that productivity had improved somewhat due to telework, 9.5% said telework had no impact on productivity, 2.1% said telework decreased productivity somewhat, and less than 1% said it decreased productivity a great deal. Overall, 87.5% of respondents said telework had improved productivity at their agency somewhat or a great deal, and 97% of respondents said telework has either had no impact or had improved productivity.
- Reduction in telework will hurt retention, worsen backlogs
77% of respondents said reductions in telework would make it more difficult to recruit and retain employees, and 74% said reducing telework would hurt productivity. A majority of federal workers feel that telework better serves the American people: 55% said reductions in telework would hurt customer service, and 50% of respondents said reductions in telework would increase backlogs.
- Budget cuts and understaffing to blame for backlogs
66% of respondents attributed backlogs at their agency to understaffing and lack of resources, and only 6% identified telework as a related issue.
- Understaffing, poor management biggest barriers to better service
Respondents identified understaffing and lack of resources (39.2%) and poor management and ineffective leadership (27.3%) as the top barriers to providing better services in their agencies. Only 1.3% of respondents identified telework and remote work policies as barriers to better service.
- Changes to telework since mid-2021
The workers surveyed have seen a variety of responses regarding telework by their employers: 34.8% of respondents say their agencies have curtailed telework since mid-2021, another 32.3% say their agencies have made no change, and 32.9% say their agency has expanded telework since mid-2021.
- Future changes to telework not expected
Of those surveyed, 45.7% said they do not expect any change to telework policies in the near future, 35.6% said they expect their agency to decrease telework flexibilities, and another 18.7% said they expect that their agencies will soon increase telework options.
The survey was conducted electronically from March 15-March 24, 2023. The 3,112 respondents included federal government employees from every state and Puerto Rico, representing 125 distinct government programs.
Results in line with OPM findings
OPM Director Kiran Ahuja voiced support for continued telework and remote work during the March 9 hearing as it increases both employee engagement and productivity.
“Face time is not a proxy for performance. We actually need to utilize these workplace flexibilities in order to take advantage of what we’ve learned throughout the pandemic,” the OPM director told lawmakers. “We’ve actually seen greater engagement by employees. We’ve seen greater productivity and performance.”