Federal Manager's Daily Report

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A general return of teleworking federal employees to their regular worksites is “long overdue,” the top two House Republicans on civil service issues have said in the latest of many letters urging the administration to speed up the process and better explain its planning.

A letter from Reps. James Comey of Kentucky and Jody Hice of Georgia said that statements such as President Biden’s vow in the State of the Union speech to soon have the “vast majority” of employees working onsite “are not reflected in the number of employees working on premises at the departments and agencies.”

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Since that March 1speech, several major agencies have announced reentry plans featuring hybrids of onsite work and telework for those who have been teleworking exclusively or nearly so since the pandemic started. However, the policy from the largest, DoD, generally leaves timing and other details up to subcomponents, and while the recall at the second-largest, the VA, does set a goal of achieving a “new normal” by the end of May, it affects only about a tenth of its employees since the rest have been working onsite all along.

“It is long overdue for the federal workforce to return to work at their duty stations. We have repeatedly urged the Administration to bring federal employees back as soon as possible. Every day Americans wait for that return is another day they suffer underperforming, inefficient services from federal workers not at their offices,” they wrote.

They asked for a commitment for a date to have the “vast majority” of employees working onsite, the agency plans for accomplishing that, and documents relating to any plans to “materially expand future levels of telework and remote work beyond pre-pandemic levels.”

They also raised an issue common in prior letters from Capitol Hill Republicans to the administration, the cost of underused office space.

“The high cost of excess federal real property holdings has been a long-standing problem. It can only have been exacerbated by the broad under-utilization of federal real property during the pandemic expansion of telework and remote work. It must be brought under control—not worsened by further delay in returning federal employee to in-person work,” they wrote.

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