GPO vacates regional offices, embraces 100% telework for all eligible employees

While many agencies are announcing return-to-office plans for their employees, at least one small agency is taking a step in the opposite direction.

The Government Publishing Office this week confirmed its plans to maintain 100% telework and remote work options for all eligible agency employees — and plans to reorganize its regional office structure around that decision.

After conducting a pilot at its Chicago office, GPO rearranged all of its regional offices into seven different teams that are no longer tied to physical location.  Those team members, who are teleworking and working remotely, can work from anywhere in the country, GPO said in a press release Monday.

GPO, a small legislative branch agency with just a couple thousand employees who handle the government’s printing and publishing services, said the decision to restructure comes on the heels of major success teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since early 2020, the eligible one-third of the agency’s workforce has been entirely teleworking.

GPO first implemented its current telework and remote work policy in July 2021, and now, the agency said that policy will remain intact for the some 500 telework-eligible feds at GPO. On the other hand, GPO production staff, roughly 1,000 employees total, will continue to work completely on-site, as these employees have to report in-person to produce U.S. passports and other printed materials for Congress, the White House and agencies.

“I believe if something is working well for our customers and teammates, we need to do more of it,” GPO Director Hugh Nathanial Halpern said in a press statement. “By vacating physical regional offices, GPO is able to better serve our customers, reduce costs and enhance the work-life balance for our teammates, all by refocusing our customer services teams on meeting our customers where they are, rather than where GPO is.”

Beyond keeping customers and employees satisfied, GPO Chief Communications Officer Gary Somerset said telework at the agency is saving $1 million annually in taxpayer dollars, since the agency is no longer renting physical office space for its regional teams.

More broadly, in a report last month, the Government Accountability Office found that agencies were, on average, utilizing just 25% of their headquarters offices. GAO officials said it’s time for agencies right now to start making “hard decisions” about how they’ll be using their office space in the future — and reduce that space as needed.

In contrast to GPO’s latest decision, many executive branch agencies have started announcing upcoming increases to their requirements for employees to work in the office. Federal News Network has compiled a running list of what we know so far about agencies’ return-to-office plans.

GPO is unlike other federal agencies, Somerset told Federal News Network. Consequently, the Office of Management and Budget memo from April does not apply to GPO. Still, the agency is continuing to measure productivity in its workforce, similar to executive branch agencies.

“GPO runs as a business, so our primary measurement of productivity is revenue,” Somerset said in an email.

The agency’s customer services business unit, for which all employees either fully telework or work remotely, has seen orders from agencies increase by about 15% in the last year. Somerset said the telework program is highly successful for handling the influx of orders.

“Productivity is up, our customers are happy, our employees are happy with the work-life balance and GPO can recruit nationwide for regional team job openings,” Somerset said.

Put simply, he said, “telework works for GPO.”

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