New guidance on returning agencies to normal operations calls on them to factor in certain safety considerations that could impact work assignments and telework status.
For the meantime, agencies are to continue current policies under which far more employees than normal are teleworking, but “as conditions change, agency heads should revisit telework policies.”
Employees that have been assigned to telework but who are in good health and under age 65 could be returned to the workplace “based on local public health and agency leadership directions and in accordance with national guidelines,” according to an OMB-OPM memo.
For “older adults” and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, though, agencies are to continue the maximum telework policy until a duty station is back at normal operating status.
Until then, agencies may continue to pay weather and safety leave to such persons who cannot telework, although it is unclear how widely those benefits are being paid. (Employees who are symptomatic or who test positive for covid-19 should continue to follow established procedures including staying home and informing the agency so that additional cleaning can be done.)
In deciding on potential changes to current telework, agencies may also take into consideration situations where an employee lives with or provides care for individuals in the vulnerable population.
Agencies further “may consider new work arrangements for the immediate future” such as dividing an office’s workforce into rotating teams, each of which would be at the office five days per month and telework the other days.
If changing work schedules, agencies “should factor in operational constraints and employee needs such as childcare and transportation. Where possible, agencies should employ creative and flexible solutions to meeting these needs,” the guidance says.
The guidance also covers topics pertinent both to employees returning from telework and those who have continued to report to their regular worksites:
· At the workplace, employees should “follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines to the extent practical. Agencies must consider specific and unique office environments, such as open-space designs, when implementing social distancing measures. In addition, agencies should institute other policies to enforce social distancing and mitigation measures (e.g., closing common spaces, limited gatherings, reconfigured space, prohibiting communal food in workspaces and cafeterias), in accordance with the national guidelines.”
· “Employees may wear a face covering at all times while in the workplace. Agencies can issue facemasks or may approve employees’ supplied doth face coverings.”
· “Agencies may consider purchasing facility screening services (including basic health screenings and temperature checks) now available on the GSA Schedule, subject to availability. These services may require agencies to provide appropriate PPE and equipment, including thermometers and masks, as outlined in standard procedures. Agencies may also request employees to take their temperature at home prior to reporting to the employee duty station.”