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Biden Calls for Federal Workers to Return to the Office

Aerial view of washington, dc.

​President Biden is asking the leaders of federal government agencies to boost the number of employees who report for in-person work this fall.

Government leaders are joining many executives in the private sector in persuading more employees to return to the office after working remotely during the pandemic.

Axios reported that White House chief of staff Jeff Zients sent an email to Cabinet leaders on Aug. 4, writing, "As we look towards the fall, and with the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, your agencies will be implementing increases in the amount of in-person work for your team. This is a priority of the President—and I am looking to each of you to aggressively execute this shift in September and October."

We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other outlets. 

Biden Pushes to End Remote Work Era for Feds

President Biden is calling for his Cabinet to "aggressively execute" plans for federal employees to work more in their offices this fall after years of working remotely, according to an email sent Friday to every Cabinet member and obtained by Axios.

A Government Accountability Office report published last month found that "17 of the 24 federal agencies used on average an estimated 25 percent or less of the capacity of their headquarters buildings."

This is a continuation of the administration's ongoing efforts to bring the federal workforce back to the office. In his State of the Union address in March 2022, Biden pledged that "the vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person." In April 2023, the Office of Management and Budget ended maximum telework and sent out further instructions for agencies to develop plans to increase in-person work. The White House declined to comment.


The Great Compromise: Return-to-Office Policies Are Evolving

As the pandemic recedes further into the rearview mirror, more employers are asking—or requiring—that workers return to the office, either full time or on a hybrid schedule. The need for collaboration and maintaining workplace culture are the top two reasons cited, according to a SHRM survey of 1,500 HR professionals conducted in June.

The good news for companies implementing return-to-office policies is that while employees may say they don't want to go back, most report that the return has been a positive experience. Seventy-one percent of workers who came back to the office say they are more satisfied with their jobs, according to the SHRM research, and about three-quarters say they are more effective and productive.

(SHRM Online

[For more resources on managing your company’s return-to-office, check out SHRM’s Return to Office resource hub page.]

White House Urges Federal Workers to Return to Office This Fall

While Zients's letter Friday did not state that he or the president were dissatisfied with the pace of back-to-office efforts, it sought to highlight the importance of in-person work going forward.

"We are returning to in-person work because it is critical to the well-being of our teams and will enable us to deliver better results for the American people," he wrote. "These changes will allow us to harness the benefits of enhanced flexibilities that we experienced during the pandemic, while ensuring we have the in-person time we need to build a strong culture, trust, and interpersonal connections."

Pressure to let the workforce continue to work from home has come from unions representing federal employees—allies of the administration who have resisted most efforts to bring them back to the office. At many agencies, unions are attempting to codify permanent telework in new collective bargaining agreements. Biden, who has largely embraced unions during his presidency, could find himself on the opposing side of federal employee unions who favor more flexible work arrangements.

(The Washington Post)

FAA Puts ‘Hold’ on Return-to-Office Plans After Union Pushback

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is rethinking its return-to-office plans following pushback from its unions. The FAA announced in an all-staff email on July 20 that its employees would come into the office at least three days per week—or six days per pay period—starting on Oct. 9. But the FAA is putting a temporary pause on its return-to-office plans after unions claimed the announcement was made unilaterally and in violation of their collective bargaining agreements.

(Federal News Network)


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