HUD employees “are maintaining a high level of service continuity,” says an IG report that represents a first formal assessment of the impact on federal agency operations of the exceptionally high levels of telework in use due to the pandemic.
Such findings could be cited by those who advocate more use of telework as a standard practice government-wide in the long term; before the pandemic, telework overall had flattened off, and several major agencies had moved to cut it back. Already there have been anecdotes from some senior agency officials of productivity increasing in some places, and more formal assessments are likely once agency operations return to a more normal footing.
Three-fourths of employees the IG contacted said that increased telework has had only a slight or no impact on operations, while almost all of the rest said the impact was moderate as opposed to severe, a report said. The employees were in occupations including office directors, information security and other administrative roles.
“Although employees encountered some difficulties and processes were impacted, HUD was generally able to quickly adapt and continue performing its essential functions. Many of the survey respondents indicated that switching to mandatory telework had no negative impact or only a slight impact on their work,” it said.
“In some cases, mandatory telework reportedly resulted in benefits to the department and employees, such as an increase in employee productivity and a reduction in costs,” it added.
The IG cautioned that the number of employees contacted was small but that nonetheless “we believe the survey responses included an appropriate cross-section of primary HUD program offices and employee roles sufficient to meet the study objectives” of assessing the department’s experience with high rates of telework.
The major negative impact on operations, it said, involved “processes dependent on paper records or processes requiring access to facilities” as well as activities such as on-site housing inspections.
In addition, it said that while overall HUD “was well prepared for mandatory telework,” employees have encountered problems including with access to agency networks and video conferencing systems.