Are you ever going back to the office?

Agencies practically went from zero to 100 on telework this spring. So what's next for the future of remote work?

Maybe it’s the recent statements from federal-employee-of-the-year Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said last week things wouldn’t return to “normal” until the end of the 2021 or 2022.

Or the comments a few agency officials made last week, when they said their leadership was considering 100% telework positions for the future.

But you have to wonder at this point in the pandemic — yes, more than seven months in — will you ever go back to the office?

There are, of course, plenty of feds who never really left their work sites. Their offices are a Veterans Affairs hospital, a border checkpoint or an IRS mailroom.

Some employees may go into the office once or twice a week to accomplish a specific task, or just for a change in scenery.

We last surveyed our readers at Federal News Network back in June about their expectations for an eventual return to office. The majority of teleworkers and those who had returned to their office said they didn’t want a mass workforce recall until there’s a vaccine.

Three-quarters of federal employees and contractors still teleworking in June expressed some degree of discomfort with the prospects of returning to the office.

Putting the pandemic aside, other surveys and reports suggest the future of remote work is here to stay, even after it’s safe to pack a stadium or a movie theater again.

According to a recent SAIC survey of federal executives, 70% of respondents said they expect to telework three-to-four days a week in the future.

Employees went from teleworking two days a week on average before the pandemic, to 4.72 days a week today. Some public health agencies have their employees working more than five days a week remotely, according to SAIC.

Before the pandemic, 39% of those surveyed said they rarely teleworked. Today, just 1% said they rarely telework now.

A recent report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government suggested agencies could be at turning point when it comes to telework — or “distance work,” as the authors called it.

Other studies have shown a strong business case for adopting telework on a more permanent basis.

According to OPM’s most recent report to Congress on federal telework, just shy of 906,000 employees were deemed eligible for the program — in 2018.

The numbers are likely higher today, as many agencies have found ways to transfer certain in-person workloads to telework.

Even the usually strict agencies with classified workloads have realized they could get more creative with remote work during the pandemic.

Lewis Monroe, director of human resources at the National Nuclear Security Administration, said employees at his agency have realized they actually spend far less time using classified systems than they initially thought.

“We have been kidding ourselves for a long time about how much we are actually connected to classified systems during the day or the work week,” he said last week during a virtual workforce summit produced by Government Executive. “There’s a very, very small portion who spend all of their time on classified systems. The vast majority of the workforce only spends 8-to-10% a week accessing classified material. You can do most of your work on the low-side at home from a regular desktop or a laptop, and you come into the facility to do whatever classified activity you have to do.”

Global Workplace Analytics, a research and consulting firm, estimated government could save a whopping $11 billion a year if the 906,000 federal employees who were eligible to telework in 2018 worked remotely part-time. Specifically, agencies could save $13,000 a year for each half-time teleworker, according to that analysis.

It also assumed government would see a 25% reduction in federal real estate if eligible teleworkers spent half of their weeks working from home.

It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Where are you at this point with telework? Tired of it? Love it? Hoping your agency makes it permanent whenever “normal” returns?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

In Australia, registering to vote and submitting your ballot is required by law for any citizen above the age of 18. Failure to do so can result in a modest fine or even potentially a day in court. Unsurprisingly, the country regularly boasts some of the highest civic participation numbers in the world.

Source: BBC

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