fedweek.com: sec covid march dismissed Washington DC, March 2020: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) became the first US federal agency to direct employees to work from home to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19. Over a year later much of the federal government is figuring out how to bring back workers that have been remote. Image: SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

New guidance from the Biden administration paves the way for bringing more federal employees back to their official duty stations from telework by lifting a former cap on building occupancy and telling agencies to review their telework policies.

The guidance, in a joint OMB-OPM-GSA memo, provides further instructions to agencies as they plan, in its words, for “an effective, orderly, and safe increased return of federal employees and contractors to the physical workplace”—what it calls “reentry.”


Agencies are to submit general draft plans for “post-reentry personnel policies and work environment” to OMB by June 18; larger agencies are to submit a draft schedule for “phased reentry of personnel” by July 9; and all agencies are to submit final plans, taking into account any feedback, by July 19.

“Agency plans for reentry and post-reentry should be informed by lessons learned during the past 15 months. The agency’s eventual post-pandemic operating state may differ in significant ways from the agency’s pre-pandemic operating state,” it says.

It says that a general limit on occupancy to 25 percent of maximum capacity, set by a January memo, is “no longer in effect” although “agencies may establish occupancy limits for specific workplaces as a means of ensuring physical distancing between unvaccinated individuals.”

Before increasing the number of employees in the workplace, it adds, an agency must complete its phased plan for reentry and post-reentry, ensure it has an updated COVID-19 workplace safety plan pursuant to current CDC guidelines, satisfy any applicable collective bargaining obligations, and provide ample notice to any affected employees.”

Agencies also must follow the same steps before changing employees’ telework status, it says. While the government’s overall remains in maximum telework status, the mix of telework and onsite work is a matter of an agency’s discretion, decisions that “must be guided by how they can most effectively achieve their respective missions.”

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