GAO Suggests Safe Practices for Returning Federal Employees to Offices

GAO has listed considerations it said agencies need to take to safely bring federal employees back to work in an office environment.

A new Government Accountability Office report lists key considerations for federal agencies to keep federal employees safe as they begin returning to work in offices in the wake of the coronavirus.

GAO listed the following issues that it said agencies should consider as federal employees reenter their offices:

  • Maintain continuous communication with employees
    GAO said that agencies should clearly communicate matters such as pay and leave guidance and that it is important that employees understand the policies and requirements of their agencies, and the alternatives, such as telework, that may be available to them.
  • Identify mission-essential functions and employees, and classify their exposure risk level
    GAO said that it it is important that agencies identify mission essential functions that cannot be performed remotely, as well as the related number of employees who will perform those functions and their risk of exposure. 
  • Make decisions about reentry based on local conditions
    Agencies should consider making decisions about reentry, including precautions and safeguards agencies take, based on the local prevalence of the pandemic at each site.
  • Have appropriate protection measures in place to protect employees
    Agencies will want to ensure that they have an adequate supply of hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitizers, and a plan for distributing those supplies within the agency in addition to any needed personal protective equipment, such as masks.
  • Implement social distancing strategies
  • Establish protocols to prioritize and distribute antivirals and vaccines
    GAO said it will be important for agencies to decide the extent to which things such as a vaccine or antivirals will be provided to employees.

Agencies have been developing their own reopening plans for resuming normal operations and returning employees to work in offices. The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo with general guidelines for federal agencies to use in developing their reopening strategies which details a gradual suggested process of restoring normal operations.

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