Almost a year ago federal employees were wondering when their agencies would send them home to work remotely for what turned out to be the foreseeable future.
Today, they’re wondering the opposite. Will I go back to the office, and when? What’s life going to look like once the pandemic is “over,” whatever that even means?
It seems tough to imagine a scenario where everything goes back to the way it was during pre-pandemic times. Our own surveys of federal employees show there’s plenty of pessimism things could return to their usual old ways, with many having an “I’ll believe when I see it” kind of attitude.
The Treasury Department said it formed a group to study the future of remote work policies and their impact on office space, locality pay, and training and IT needs.
As we’ve discussed before in this space, allowing feds to work from, say, Nashville, Tennessee, for an agency that’s based out of Bethesda, Maryland, could prompt a few locality pay questions.
NASA is studying how remote work could provide more professional development opportunities for its employees. Maybe those rotational assignments or reassignments aren’t so difficult if geographic moves are no longer necessary?
Inspectors general have been surveying and studying the impact of the pandemic on their agencies’ workforces, but many of the reviews, for obvious reasons, have focused on safety.
The inspector general for U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a recent survey of the agency’s employees and their views and experiences on telework.
It’s not the biggest agency out there, but the survey sheds light on how employees’ minds, especially supervisors, have changed since the pandemic started nearly one year ago — and where, ideally, they’d like to see telework go in a post-COVID world.
The biggest takeaway? Supervisors, by and large, affirmed the views of their employees. And many of them are interested in full-time telework after the pandemic too.
Employees and supervisors offered mixed views on how often, ideally, they’d like to telework once the pandemic is over. A small majority, nearly 31%, said they need just one or two days in the office every two weeks to accomplish their tasks. Others are looking for more in-office time.
A quarter of employees said they preferred full-time telework even after mandatory telework policies are lifted.
The situation is only slightly different for supervisors.
About 15% of surveyed supervisors said they’d prefer to work remotely every day. Another 30% said one or two days in the office every two weeks was ideal, while 28% preferred three or four days of office work.
When it comes to productivity, 90% of CPSC employees said they’re getting more work done from home; 10% said less. Of the 26 employees who said they were less productive, half of them previously worked in a lab before the pandemic.
None of the surveyed supervisors said their employees were less productive. About one-third said their employees were more productive working remotely, and another two-thirds said productivity was mixed or at least equal to pre-pandemic times.
About 27% of CPSC employees said they spoke to their managers more often today than before the pandemic. Another two-thirds said they haven’t noticed many differences in how often they’re communicating with their supervisors these days.
Just 11% said they communicated less often with their managers during the pandemic.
About half of supervisors are requiring more frequent team meetings these days, and one-third said they’re asking employees to check in or meet one-on-one on a more frequent basis.
A clear majority, 79% of CPSC employees, said they’re saving more money today by working from home.
Overall, about half of CPSC employees said their opinions of telework have changed since it was made mandatory a year ago. An overwhelming majority of employees said telework had a positive or no impact on their ability to get their work done.
Just 20 employees said remote work had negatively impacted their ability to complete their work.
So whenever the pandemic is over and it’s safe to gather in a office building again, what would your ideal remote work schedule be? Back in the office full time, with a day or two remote for the occasional snow day?
One or two days in the office and the rest at home? Full-time telework, or something in between?
When they need to relocate black rhinos to one of Namibia’s national parks or conservancies, conservationists will suspend the 3,000-pound, sedated pachyderms from a helicopter. The rhinos wear blindfolds and earplugs. This is considered easier than trying to move the animals by car or truck across Namibia’s rugged terrain.