Implement plan F: End teleworking!

Officials who want to finally trigger the long-predicted brain drain from federal agencies can probably do it rather quickly. Some appear to have already decided to go ahead with what some feds are already calling plan F (don’t ask me why) rather than the standard plan B.

If they decide to end pandemic-caused teleworking programs and bring workers back into the office, and rush hour traffic and eyeball-to-eyeball contact with customers. This is especially true at the Social Security Administration and the IRS. But it also applies to other agencies including some that were dismantling telework programs before the coronavirus changed everything.

Warnings of a federal retirement tsunami, a tidal wave of retirements by the experienced/invaluable government workers, began in the late 1990s. Although they’ve resurfaced frequently, the numbers never happened. So-called experts who predicted a surge after the election, and yet another retirement tidal wave after the 2016 inauguration were wrong. The numbers just didn’t bear it out.  Many fed hung on while because of the 11-year bull market when their Thrift Savings Plan accounts blossomed. Now many say they are staying on for the exact opposite reasons after the big correction wiped out most of the decade long gains in less than a month.

Guessing what large numbers of federal workers will or won’t do, and when and why, is as tough as timing the stock market to know when to buy or sell. But there are some indications. First, this note from a long-time Social Security Administration worker:

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“I’ve been around a long time. As you frequently say I’ve been there (military vet), got the T-shirt on several fronts. For the most part I have enjoyed my work. I always felt we had a good mission — still do, for that matter. What’s changed, aside from the obvious, is the attitude of management which may or may not be some sort of fallout from the drain-the-swamp crusade. The lack of trust and support for rank-and-file federal workers, not to mention experts at the CDC, the international [World Health Organization] and even Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, is troubling. Understatement of the year; questioning the competence and patriotism of top ranked civil servant is out of control.

“For me it comes down to this: I like my job and would like to keep doing it, and buying into the TSP. I still think the stock funds are on sale. And as said previously I like my work. However, if they decide to bring most of us back to work, given the health risks to both SSA people and our customers, I am gone. But I’m not going to compromise my health (like die on the job for no reason) by going back to work too soon when things are going well as is. This strikes me as nervous politicians doing the old do-something-even-if-its wrong drill.

“SSA and the IRS are getting much of the attention — rightly so — because there are so many of them teleworking. And the demand is high, in some places, to get them back on the job. Either because it is believed they are needed and will do better in place at the office. Or as a foot-in-the-door to encourage reluctant private sector employees who have visions of swarms of post-pandemic malpractice cases, to get people back to work and boost the economy even if a few eggs are broken in the omlete-fixing process to further political agendas. But there are other places when workers, now on the job, are being hit hard. [The Department of] Homeland Security, the [Transportation Security Administration] and even the Secret Service have taken their share of hits.

“A federal nurse, who can’t telework because of the hands-on nature of her job in North Carolina, has had to make some hard choices. She’s got a husband and two pre-schoolers. They are healthy but her husband has autoimmune issues which make him a prime candidate for diseases. She’s staying on the job but moving to her sister’s vacant mother-in-law apartment to protect her family. She said she knows she had to work but also has to protect her family. Hard times, hard choices.

“But for many feds and their bosses, teleworking, while not perfect, has worked pretty well. But should it end, and would it be ending for the wrong (political) reasons?” — Mike

Bottom line: What’s your bottom line? Are you teleworking now? Is it working for the taxpayers, your ultimate employers as well as customers and clients, or would you get more done at the office?  Where do you draw the line?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

The village of La Gloria in Velacruz, Mexico, erected a statue of five-year-old resident Edgar Hernandez, who in 2009 was the first known person to contract the H1N1 swine flu. He survived, and his mother later said the boy liked the statue, which is inspired by the Belgian work “Mannequin Pis.” It depicts a smiling Edgar holding a frog to represent one of the biblical seven deadly plagues.

Source: Atlas Obscura