OPM shares performance management tips for a hybrid workplace

Federal managers have some help to ensure their employees are performing at a high level no matter where they are working. A new memo from the Office of Personn...

Federal managers have some help to ensure their employees are performing at a high level no matter where they are working. A new memo from the Office of Personnel Management released today, offers them performance management tips for a hybrid workplace.

“Effective performance management requires engagement and commitment from individuals at all
levels of an agency,” the memo says. “As such, these performance management tips have been uniquely tailored to assist Non-supervisory Employees, Supervisors, and Leadership throughout the various phases of the performance management cycle.”

And now with agencies expected to begin returning employees to the office in the coming months, OPM wants to make sure managers are “equipped to manage employee performance equitably and effectively, regardless of whether the employees are in the office or not.”

At least two agencies have set out plans to begin bringing non-remote work eligible and senior leaders back to the office sooner than later. The Department of Agriculture and Social Security Administration have both laid out their plans for returning workers to the office. Other agencies are likely to follow suit. As COVID-19 case counts vary day-to-day, the need for flexibility in where federal employees work is likely to stay. Shalanda Young, the nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, on Feb. 1 said to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that she expects agencies to bring workers back into the office “over the next months into March.”

With today’s memo from OPM, federal workers now have tips for how best to set performance expectations in the hybrid workplace. For example, the guidance recommends using virtual backgrounds and filters in video calls to prevent distraction.

There is health and wellness advice in the recent OPM guidance; employees are encouraged to “establish intentional breaks” to “get away, exercise or go outdoors.”

Much of the guidance outlined in the memo’s attachments address how to more effectively communicate with remote employees. The guidelines seek to recreate in-office experiences like “hallway chats” and dropping by for office hours with management.

Agency leadership are encouraged to host question and answer sessions at the end of town hall meetings or through their agency intranet pages. This will grant remote federal employees more access to their bosses and give them an opportunity to ask questions of decision makers in their agency. Managers are also told to engage employees through “multiple informal and formal feedback sessions throughout the year.”

This isn’t the first time OPM has looked at how to manage a partially remote workforce. In 2018, OPM studied how telework affects federal employees’ productivity and satisfaction. Back then, it found that, on average, employees who took advantage of telework only did so sparingly, only two days per two-week pay period. In 2017, 24% of federal employees were classified as “routine telework” employees, meaning that they had a regular schedule for telework. In fiscal 2020, OPM reported that 45% of all federal employees teleworked.

“Qualitative responses suggest the expansion of telework eligibility, policy changes, and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic were key drivers in these increases,” the OPM’s 2020 Status of Telework in the federal government report to Congress said.

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