New guidance from OPM addresses a range of considerations for agencies in deciding on long-term policies regarding telework, saying that agencies “should start re-assessing schedules for and frequency of telework, based upon the experiences of the last 15 months, and re-establish them in a way that best meets mission needs (including the agency’s ability to compete for qualified candidates and retain talent).”
“Supervisors may see mission delivery, productivity, or employee engagement benefits in extending flexibilities related to telework and alternative work schedules. An employee may wish to return to their pre-pandemic schedule, operate under a new schedule, or telework only situationally,” says a question and answer document sent to agencies.
“Agencies should work through these decisions in accordance with agency policies looking not only at the primary functions of the job, but also at other responsibilities that may be amenable to being performed during occasional or regularly scheduled telework days. Agencies may wish to take this opportunity to adjust their telework policies to reflect a new understanding about how telework has worked at their agencies,” it says.
It adds that decisions on ongoing telework, or telework eligibility for new positions, should be based on the job functions “and not managerial preference per se.” In deciding on eligibility—and the number of days telework will be allowed for positions eligible—it says that agencies should “treat employees performing similar functions similarly” and assure that determinations are being made “fairly and equitably, and in a manner that effectively meets the agency’s mission needs.”
In addition to routine and situational telework, it notes that agencies have the option to approve remote work, in which the employee is not expected to come into an agency worksite on a regular and recurring basis.
It stresses, though, that both telework and remote work are not an entitlement for employees. “Telework is a strategic management tool and workplace flexibility established to facilitate the accomplishment of work, while balancing the needs of the workforce. Similarly, remote work is a human capital tool that can be used to recruit and retain a diverse workforce,” it says.
“Agencies should not treat telework as an exception to a traditional full-time in-person work schedule, or as a performance management tool or incentive. Rather, agencies should leverage their experiences with expanded telework during the pandemic to institutionalize telework programs as a routine way of doing business,” it says.