Fedweek

Washington, DC – May 17, 2021: A scene showing the recently opened Lafayette Park at the White House allowing tourists to approach the building for the first time since its closing last year.

The White House budget proposal takes no firm position on the question of potential changes to telework and other pandemic-related policies for the federal workplace, saying only once again that those issues are under review.

However, one of the documents notably does stress that in the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey—taken when telework rates were at or near their peak—”an overwhelming majority of respondents . . . reported a high level of ability to meet customers’ needs, as well as agencies’ sustained performance and quality of work.”

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The efficiency of agency operations and the level of customer service has been a main argument of members of Congress—mainly, but not all Republicans—for accelerating the return of employees from telework. The administration has loosened onsite physical distancing and mask-wearing requirements for fully vaccinated employees but has stressed several times that maximum telework authority remains in place until further notice.

The budget also notably stresses that “civil servants have continued to deliver on their agencies’ missions despite unprecedented challenges” and that agencies have “collaborated to determine how to move formerly in-person work to the virtual environment.”

“OPM, GSA, and OMB will capture best practices, convene diverse stakeholder groups inside and outside of government, evaluate options, and develop guidance to assist agencies to adapt as the country continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” it adds, providing no indication of when recommendations for change might be made.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook