FedSmith Readers Say They Are Afraid to Return to Work in Their Offices

A majority of respondents to our latest survey say it’s too early for federal employees to stop telework and that they do not feel safe returning to the office.

A majority of FedSmith readers said that they are not comfortable with the idea of returning to work in agency offices because of the COVID-19 coronavirus based on the results of our latest survey.

We received just over 1,500 responses to the survey which asked a variety of questions about telework and gauging our readers’ feelings about returning to work in an office environment in the wake of the coronavirus.

Working in an Office? No Way!

When asked to rate how comfortable they were with the idea of working again in an office environment, the majority (77%) said they were not comfortable. Of those, 58% said they were “not at all comfortable” returning to work in an office.

And when asked if they were worried about contracting the coronavirus when working in an office again, the majority of respondents again said they were worried. 77% indicated they were worried, with 60% of respondents stating that they were “very concerned” about contracting the virus upon returning to work.

It’s no surprise then that the majority of respondents also said that federal employees should not stop teleworking right now to avoid the coronavirus. An even greater majority of respondents (86%) said that federal employees who are currently teleworking should not stop doing so right now. 86% of respondents said that they are currently teleworking to avoid the coronavirus.

Confidence in Agency Response

The respondents to our survey also said that they lack confidence in their agencies to keep them safe. 69% of respondents to the survey said that they are not confident that agencies can keep federal employees safe, and of those, 46% said they were “not at all confident.”

Nearly all respondents (92%) felt that additional safety protocols would be necessary for agencies to incorporate to keep employees safe going forward. But when asked if they thought their agencies would have these in place when they returned to work, only 43% of respondents answered in the affirmative.

What Do Federal Employees Need to Feel Safe?

So what kinds of things would make federal employees feel safe about working in an office again?

Our latest survey asked respondents to give their ratings on what new safety/sanitization measures would have to be added to make them comfortable. Here is how the ratings came out:

Required masks83%12%5%
Face shields33%41%27%
Individual hand sanitizer89%8%3%
Hand sanitizer stations93%4%3%
Additional hand washing areas/stands66%24%10%
Disposable gloves60%28%12%
Daily disinfection of work areas/common areas91%6%3%
Physical distancing protocols94%5%2%
Staggered shifts/breaks/days in office83%11%6%
Daily employee health screening71%17%11%
Agency provided testing for COVID-1982%11%7%
Detailed protocols for handling workplace exposures94%4%2%
Limited business travel86%9%6%
Visitor health screening88%7%5%
Not allowing visitors/clients in the workplace81%11%7%
Plexiglass barriers between co- workers/customers71%16%12%

With the exception of face shields, the majority of respondents wanted to see every one of these measures implemented in their agency offices.


Our survey left no doubt that those of our readers who normally work in an office do not want to do so again anytime soon. Thanks to those of you who took the time to share your feedback in our survey.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.