OPM has said that that the declining scores of federal employee job satisfaction and engagement—especially regarding the former—in the results of the 2021 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to an extent reflect the impact of changing policies regarding telework and other pandemic-related issues.
Both the 2020 and 2021 surveys were taken in the autumn, after the pandemic had delayed the former from its previous late spring period. By the time the survey was conducted last fall, most agencies had pulled back from the record-high levels of telework of the prior year.
The percentage of employees who do not telework at all rose from 28 to 31 percent, while the percentage of those teleworking every day fell from 47 to 36 percent and the percentage doing it only “infrequently” rose from 4 to 9 percent.
OPM said that “telework is positively related to higher scores” on those indexes and “declines in telework could be linked to a decline in these scores.”
OPM also said that when the latest survey was conducted, “the pandemic was continuing into a second year, beyond what was initially anticipated. The pandemic challenges were taking a toll on all aspects of everyone’s life.”
It added: “These factors are complicated by large scale changes in the workplace context with many agency leaders exploring and implementing hybrid working models (i.e., a mix of working arrangements, including onsite, remote, and schedule flexibilities). Managers and supervisors are learning to manage employees working in alternate and possibly changing locations.
“Employees are facing a change in how many may have worked, with some transitioning from maximum telework to a mix of telework and onsite work. As agencies develop new hybrid working models and/or transition fully back to the physical workplace, all federal employees are in a learning mode. Change can be hard and stressful, and a hallmark of 2021 has been frequent and ongoing change.”
Results to other questions related to workplace changes included that positive responses fell from 81 to 74 percent regarding senior leadership’s commitment to employee health and safety; and from 73 to 65 percent regarding confidence the organization will respond effectively to future emergencies, based on its handling of the pandemic.
New questions regarding whether the organization has made employee safety a top priority in plans to return to the office and whether leadership updates employees about those plans resulted in positive responses of 62 and 65 percent.