The deadline is Friday for the largest two dozen Cabinet department and largest independent agencies to submit to OMB their workplace “reentry” plans as a June administration memo required, plans that will ultimately shape the long-term balance between onsite and off-site work.
The memo told those agencies—who together account for the large majority of the federal workforce—to develop “a draft schedule for phased reentry of personnel” to OMB by July 9, with final plans due by July 19. Other agencies are not required to submit draft plans first but are to complete their final plans by the second date.
The government-wide operating status remains as “maximum telework” but it’s uncertain how long that will continue. The June memo lifted the prior general building occupancy limit of 25 percent of capacity that had acted as an effective limit on how many employees could be onsite at any given time.
The memo says that agency plans “should be informed by lessons learned” during the pandemic, that those who were put on telework for the first time should continue to be deemed as telework-eligible, and that an agency’s “eventual post-pandemic operating state may differ in significant ways from the agency’s pre-pandemic operating state.”
However, it makes no guarantees for keeping telework at or even close to its current rate—which is down from its peak of last year but still very high by the government’s historic rate. It says only that OMB, OPM and GSA—lead agencies on the effort—“anticipate that many agencies will leverage” higher levels of telework and alternative work schedules “more expansively than was the case prior to the pandemic.”
That leaves room for variation among agencies, and the memo further leaves room for variation within agencies. It says that the intent of the plans is to “provide guardrails for decision making across divisions, offices, and teams. Most decisions about application of those policy guidelines should be delegated to the lowest possible levels in the organization, to provide maximum flexibility for defining work requirements to meet mission and workforce needs.”