Next stop: Home, remote, or ‘office’ office?

Depending on which polls you believe, what publications you read, and what radio/TV outlets you follow, many Americans are dying to get back to the office. By the same token, many say they’ve found a home at their home office. And listen too. Many say they will never return full time to a commute and a central office. Some say they want to return, but to work from home once or twice a week on a regular schedule. Some say they’ll never go back. Period. Many workers threatened to quit. At least to the media.

Forty percent, in one study, said they would take a 10% pay cut if they could work full time from a remote cite of their choice. Maybe an RV in Montana or a low-cost part of Texas or Wyoming. Because of locality pay, that could be a major financial issue if a Manhattan based IRS or Social Security employee was allowed to work from a site in Arkansas or Utah where living costs — and federal pay scales — are lower. In addition to taking a hit in pay, by going remote in the RUS (rest of U.S. locality pay zone), the employee could dramatically reduce his or her retirement benefit, which is based on length of service and highest 3-year average salary.

Another 30% say they want, and expect, to be able to work from home at least one day per week. Or they walk.

Last but not lease, more than 20%, again varying poll to poll, say they will probably quit their current jobs once the world returns to normal — i.e., the way it was 15 months ago.

The problem for federal workers is that the IRS isn’t John Deere. The VA isn’t Price Waterhouse. Defense isn’t Wal-Mart. Also the polls rarely checked with more than 1,000 people. So we may have some insights on what some people say they may do, but none on how they will feel if actually ordered back. No numbers as to how many of those feds were respondents. But the feeling that a major change, a permanent change, is out there. Things may be better, or worse, in future. Or both. It will never be the office you knew and loved, or hated, in 2019.

One thing the pandemic did was change, almost overnight, attitudes of people working out-of-sight of their bosses. Think Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchet.

Teleworking advanced more in the past year-and-a-half than it did in the previous 30 years. Government agencies dipped their toes into teleworking here and there. And there was great hope many would do their thing from telework centers (a number were setup in Metro DC). The centers allowed people much shorter commutes. Less time in traffic. Less pollution. And yet they could work in an office setting, with some supervision and tech support. And no potential legal problems (like workers’ comp responsibility) that were an issue in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Teleworking was making slow progress — in Congress and in actual government offices — as House members from the DC/Maryland/Virginia region pushed it. Some agencies pushed by complying with congressional edicts to make telework more available to more people. Some agency heads playing a political/bureaucratic game by allowing some, many, or most people to telework ONE DAY PER YEAR. So they obeyed the congressional mandates and filled their quotas (on paper) without any real change.

Teleworking actually was going backward toward the end of the Trump administration. Many top political appointees — taking their cue from the White House — treated workers with contempt, didn’t trust them, and found many were either incompetent or insubordinate. Or both. The Interior Secretary told a private group that roughly 30% of his huge workforce weren’t saluting the flag, which presumably meant they weren’t loyal to their missions or the nation. Or maybe just him.

Workers and career officials from the EPA, to the FBI, CIA and other agencies were pushed out of the official loop or blamed for embarrassing leaks. Or failure to act.

Unions, the natural channel for telework programs, came under fire. Contracts were being rewritten, or ignored. Unions lost free office space in federal buildings and agency heads who wanted to keep their heads started reducing large telework programs and eliminating many small ones.

All of that changed, partly via the election. Partly because of the first worldwide pandemic most living people had ever experienced. Almost overnight red tape was cut. People were told to work from home. Some loved it. Some can’t wait to get back to normal, whatever that may be in the future.

The decision will be tougher in government partly because the nature of the work. Security issues — compared to many private firm — and lack of flexibility for managers and supervisors in making such important personnel decisions.

Spoiler Alert: I now know people, doing roughly the same jobs for the same DC-based company, who now work from their homes. Portland, Maine; Portland, Ore.; New Orleans. Although one has already changed cities, the bottom line is he no longer works in DC. And the operation is thriving.

How about where you are? Have you become homebound? Or are you having cabin fever and long for people, interaction? And would you take a pay cut if it meant you could work from any place of your choice? What are the pros and cons you envision and would like your bosses to consider?

mcausey@federalnewsnetwork.com

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Adrian Dannhauser

Cyprus is the only country without its own national anthem. In 1966 it decided to adopt the Greek national anthem as its own. (The Greek national anthem also contains 158 verses.) Now that’s long.

Source: PrepScholar

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THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN TICKER

Aug 03, 2021 Close Change YTD*
L Income 23.1641 0.0345 8.17%
L 2025 11.9943 0.0346 16.95%
L 2030 42.4322 0.1611 21.24%
L 2035 12.7580 0.0529 23.38%
L 2040 48.3298 0.2174 25.57%
L 2045 13.2532 0.0635 27.50%
L 2050 29.0603 0.1477 29.45%
L 2055 14.3079 0.0878 36.39%
L 2060 14.3080 0.0879 36.38%
L 2065 14.3080 0.0878 36.38%
G Fund 16.6381 0.0005 1.09%
F Fund 21.1742 0.0007 -0.52%
C Fund 66.3806 0.5403 36.42%
S Fund 84.7405 0.2437 51.07%
I Fund 39.3039 0.1902 30.49%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.