White House to federal agencies: ‘Substantially increase meaningful in-person work’

Leaders told to conduct assessments of telework's impact on organizational health, performance

White House to federal agencies: ‘Substantially increase meaningful in-person work’

The U.S. federal government has asked federal agencies to revise workforce plans to "substantially increase" in-person work by government employees.

Within the next month, agencies are expected to develop and provide the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Executive Office of the President with updated headquarters (and equivalents) Work Environment Plans (based on post-reentry plans), according to the memo from Shalanda Young, OMB director.

The plans should describe agencies’ current policies for telework and related operational policies and practices (e.g., work schedule design, workspace design, or use of assistive and supportive technologies for collaboration), as well as anticipated changes, with implementation timelines.

“Consistent with trends over the last two years, plans should reflect the expectation that agency headquarters and equivalents generally continue to substantially increase meaningful in-person work in Federal offices,” Young said in the memo first reported by Reuters. “Agencies are expected to consider this principle in their planning unless additional flexibility existed in 2019 or the agency can demonstrate clear benefits of additional flexibility to organizational health and organizational performance.”

Companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Disney have also called on workers to work the majority of their weekly schedule in the office.

Flexibility and recruitment

Despite the federal government’s instruction for agencies to call workers back to the office, it also urged agencies to use flexibility in their recruitment efforts.

“Agencies should still use flexible operational policies as an important tool in talent recruitment and retention,” said Young in the memo. “These expectations are broadly consistent with trends in other sectors as they seek to capitalize on the benefits of meaningful in-person work necessary for high-performing, innovative organizations and strong, sustainable organizational health and culture.”

Remote working and flexible hours are “significant retention tools,” Elizabeth Chrane, chief people officer at Atlanta-based consultancy OneDigital, previously said.

The government also wants agencies to identify the pros and cons of telework within their own units.

“As agencies consider their work environments within their major operating units, assessments of organizational health and organizational performance can help identify beneficial or adverse impacts of telework and other operational policies on the agency’s performance of its mission,” said Young.

“These may include impacts to customer experience and service, security, cost to operations, management of real property, investments in network capacity or communications infrastructure, and the agency’s ability to recruit and retain top talent. Such assessments can also be used to assess technology capabilities, with an eye towards improving efficiency and reducing time spent on processes that rely on outdated technology.”

  1. Employers need to make coming to the office “more purposeful and 'commute-worthy,'" Jeanne Meister, Executive VP, Executive Networks, previously said.


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