OPM official: No going back to pre-COVID status quo

The Office of Personnel Management wants to use upcoming guidance on telework to offer a new vision for federal work, an agency official said Wednesday.

cloud-enabled telework
 

The COVID-19 pandemic declared just over a year ago forced a surge toward telework for government agencies. As the emergency starts to recede and vaccines become more widely available, the question of how federal work will look post-pandemic remains.

"Are we turning back the clock?" asked Rob Shriver, the Associate Director of Employee Services at the Office of Personnel Management.

From OPM's point of view, the answer is no.

OPM is working on guidance about how agencies can pursue remote and telework going forward, Shriver said at an FCW teleworking event on Wednesday.

Before the pandemic, the proportion of feds eligible to telework had largely been holding steady, even as the number of feds teleworking regularly was increasing, according to data Shriver shared from a forthcoming OPM report on 2019 teleworking levels.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the jump in daily telework participation from pre- to post- pandemic was a whopping 90%, according to data from the forthcoming 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, said Priscilla Clark, the Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the process, the pandemic has forced many agencies to confront a longstanding cultural hesitancy to working from home by proving that it is possible for many feds, said several workshop participants.

OPM is working on guidance about the future of work as the personnel office looks to "promote a different vision of work in the federal government going forward," Shriver said.

The office is "feeling the pressure" to get policy guidance to agencies on telework and remote work, pay administration and performance management, he said. "We're pushing hard to make sure we have an initial round of guidance out soon."

Already, government officials say that they learned valuable lessons during the pandemic.

Managers haven't been able to oversee their subordinates by literally checking in on their teams anymore, said Shannon Meehan, the acting director of the Executive Services Division at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Working from home has required "focusing on trust and establishing a culture that facilitates teams and individuals to deliver the work without being managed or assessed every single second," she said.

They've also seen the potential benefits of remote and telework.

NASA started a pilot "Work from Anywhere" program in 2014, and that flexibility has been useful in attracting new workers, said Shannon. Agency-wide teleworking days also made the agency ready to pivot to remote and teleworking postures when the pandemic hit.

Being able to offer a remote-first work environment is a type of benefit the government can offer, even as other benefits like pay lag behind the private sector, said Elizabeth Ayer, the Director of the 18F Human Services Portfolio.

OPM intends to give agencies flexibility to continue teleworking as they see fit. They're hearing "loud and clear" from stakeholders that a one-size-fits -all won't work here, Shriver said.

"There continues to be an interest in maintaining these flexibilities and making sure that OPM policy facilitates that rather than impedes it," he said. They are currently reviewing teleworking flexibilities and how they might work in the future.

The office will also have to answer questions that've cropped up as a result.

Physically separating the worker from their workplace has created questions for locality pay. It's not clear, for example, how an employee living in a higher-paying locality area but working for an office based in a lower-paying locality should be compensated, said Shriver.

"This system was designed with the assumption that people would be coming into the office," he said. "Telework has kind of been shoehorned into it."

The personnel office is also going to address new gray areas in management as agencies work through what the increased flexibility afforded workers during the pandemic means for the future.

Managers will need training on how to handle long-term hybrid, remote and telework situations, and OPM has also been collaborating with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council and academics to compile teleworking best practices to distribute to agencies, he said.

Another sticky question OPM will have to work through is guidance for vaccine administration in the workforce as vaccines become universally available and reluctance on the part of some individual employees to get vaccinated may become an issue for the workforce at large.

Either way, there's no interest in returning to February 2020 footing," said Shriver. There's a sense among chief human capital officers that "the future is here," Clark said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.