While Mike Causey is away, please enjoy this column which originally published April 28, 2022.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you hate eating alone? Or do you dread annual office get-togethers? Do you read at home alone, or look forward to regular meetings of your book club, so you can both talk about the book and meet new people? Definitions, especially of personality types, are tricky at best. Especially when its our personality under the microscope. One popular definition of an introvert vs. extrovert involves how and where you draw energy. It says:
“Extroversion and introversion refer to where people receive energy from. Extroverts are energized by socializing in larger groups or people, having many friends, instead of a few intimate ones while introverts are energized by spending time alone or with a smaller group of people.”
Most of us are probably a bit of both. And working for the federal government is in some ways being right in the middle of the petri dish. Identifying, to some extent, who is what. Which we are: Before the pandemic hit the world, changing everything, teleworking in government was not widespread. And many agencies were scaling it back or eliminating it. Today, by some estimates, 60-80% of the people in some agencies are working from a remote site full-time. And it has become the new normal. To the point where some people — in surveys mainly of nonfederal workers — say they will never go back to the office. Even if it means changing jobs or careers, or moving to a different part of the country. The IRS is one of the largest customer service operations in government. And many of its people have been working from home but are now under orders to return to the office — per White House instructions — sooner than later. Earlier we asked people to comment on the back-to-the-office move. Many did. Lots of good, interesting thoughts and info. Today’s is from a thoughtful, long time worker, David at the IRS. He said:
Hi Mike. We’re all aware of the problems that have been reported about the IRS in the media because some of the work requires people to be onsite to process tax returns, correspondence, etc. But we in the IT area have been working successfully from home under the evacuation order for the last two years. A lot of work went into making and implementing program changes for major legislation successfully during the last two years (not that we get a lot of credit from “the outside” for it because, well, we’re the “mean old” IRS and, to get on my soapbox momentarily, some incorrectly would argue that the adjective should be “inept.” But see what we’ve accomplished while taking an honest look at what happened to the agency’s budget over the last dozen years!).
But now, a phased approach has been announced for the return to the office:
Managers are expected to take the lead by returning a minimum of one day per pay period starting the week of 4/24/22 as needed “in preparation for a wider employee return.” Some of us don’t have anything to do to prepare for employees to return but, as with any large institution, the guidance applies no matter what your personal circumstances might be.
In the week of 5/8/22, the IRS will lift the official evacuation order and employees can return to the office voluntarily while continuing to maximize telework. There are some employees, like those without portable work, that will be expected to return as needed at that time but others will be able to continue telework full time.
Finally, as of the week of 6/25/22, everyone is expected to resume normal operations with a return to the office following established tours of duty, including any approved alternate work schedules and/or telework agreements.
I’m sure some of the extroverts among us are going crazy wanting to be back in the office so they can have face time with everyone and, of course, there are some jobs, like public facing ones, that require being in the office but many of the rest of us would like to continue working full time from home. A lot of time has been saved over the past two years because of reduced commuting, interruptions, etc. Of course, the pandemic was a horrible worldwide catastrophe, but I must say that I did enjoy the forced opportunity to telework full time. There have been hints that a full time telework option “might” be possible but I won’t hold my breath waiting and I’m weighing my options. As you’ve reported, a large number of people in the federal government are eligible to retire at any time and some delayed plans to do so when the pandemic struck. For myself, I’m giving serious consideration to retiring not long after the agency returns to normal operations because, for one amongst several reasons, I don’t see any advantage to returning to the office, especially after two years of showing successfully that it wasn’t necessary to accomplish our goals, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.