Fedweek

New guidance from OPM again encourages agencies to consider telework and remote work as a routine part of their work arrangements, rather than as an exception to them, citing their value during the pandemic.

OPM said in the cover memo to the guidance that “During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal employees demonstrated their resiliency, whether continuing to report to their workplace to carry out their mission or adapting with no notice to a maximum telework environment. Employees were able to continue to meet the challenges of their jobs head-on from locations other than their regular duty station, apart from their managers, supervisors, and colleagues.

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“Agencies demonstrated that they have been able to continue to carry out their missions effectively. As a result, agencies now have an opportunity to revisit how they were operating prior to the pandemic and leverage lessons learned to integrate telework and remote work into their strategic workforce plans,” it said.

That follows and adds detail to guidance issued during the summer as part of instructions to agencies in preparing “reentry” and “post-reentry” plans for work arrangements, including an assumption of more telework and remote work than before the pandemic, but less than the higher levels still in use.

Like the previous guidance, the new document makes a distinction between two terms that often are used interchangeably: telework, in which an employee generally is expected to report to an agency site on a regular basis, and remote work, in which there is no such expectation.

It says that while eligibility for each is a matter of management discretion, agencies “should strive to fully integrate telework into their culture, providing all employees (other than those legally prohibited from doing so) the opportunity to telework at least occasionally.” The guidance goes into additional detail on topics such as the implications of telework on pay and leave policies and considerations if a teleworking employee has children at home.

It adds that “Employees should remember that workplace policies and performance expectations are the same regardless of the employee’s location” and that “when an employee participates in telework, expectations related to accountability do not differ by virtue of the telework arrangement.”

The guidance says that remote work involves similar considerations, plus added issues of communications, assessing performance, expenses on occasions an agency needs the employee to report for work onsite, and more.

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