The debate over when to bring federal employees back to work in agency offices has arisen recently with some lawmakers pushing for a return to in-person work while another Congressman says that it may be premature to reduce telework flexibilities.
The debate stems around letters from Republican lawmakers who want to see federal employees back at work in person. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent the first letter in April, and more recently Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) sent a letter urging that federal employees return to in-person work “to the fullest degree possible.” Both lawmakers emphasized in their letters that federal employees telecommuting in greater numbers are having negative impacts on services provided to taxpayers, such as long wait times for even getting phone appointments from Social Security Administration offices.
On the other side of the debate is Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). He sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in which he said that, “We must ensure that Administration officials are cautious and prudent when requiring federal employees and contractors to return to federal office buildings, while continuing our responsibility to meet agency missions.”
He cited as evidence for his concern declining numbers of daily vaccine doses since April and went on to add that until a bill he introduced becomes law, he urges “OPM to ensure that agencies put appropriate safety plans in place as they return their employees to federal facilities.”
The bill in question is the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act of 2021 which would require agencies to publish public COVID-19 safety plans and address the agency’s continuity of operations and discuss implementation of health and safety initiatives, including procedures for administering the vaccine to agency employees.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has spurred the debate when it recently issued guidance stating that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks or keep their distance from others. Some federal agencies have followed suit and have begun dropping mask requirements that were previously in place as a result of the new guidelines.
Is It Time for Federal Employees to Resume In-Person Work?
Amidst this debate are the federal employees themselves. Since a majority of FedSmith readers are current federal employees, we wanted to know what you think of returning to work in agency offices.
Should in-person work resume? Or should a majority of federal employees continue telecommuting and why – is it because you do not feel safe, or is telework more convenient/productive?
The survey is now closed. You can read the results in our article, FedSmith Readers Say It’s Still Not Time to Return to In-Office Work.