The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) has joined the chorus calling for federal agencies to move away from the largely remote work model that many embraced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, there was the April memo from the Biden administration, which effectively told federal agencies to increase in-office requirements as the COVID-19 public health emergency came to an end. The White House recently reiterated its desire to see federal employees return to the office, pushing government agencies to “aggressively execute this shift” in September and October.
Specific government employers such as NASA and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have felt the heat from Capitol Hill as well, with lawmakers wondering aloud whether large-scale remote work has had a negative effect on productivity and the quality of service these and other agencies provide.
In an August 30 letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young, COG followed up on these efforts with a nudge for OMB to increase the in-office presence of federal workers. Signed by elected officials representing 23 jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., the letter’s authors offered their own experiences as examples of how transitioning to in-office and hybrid work models could benefit government agencies and those they serve.
“ … There may be lessons learned from our collective experience, as our local governments have transitioned over the last several years from a remote environment to in-person and hybrid schedules. We employ roughly 100,000 outstanding individuals, and the large majority of our employees work in-person on a full-time basis,” the officials wrote, adding that employees deemed eligible for telework typically report to work in-person two to three days a week.
“We have found that this strikes an appropriate balance and provides the best level of service for taxpayers. Being able to work together, troubleshoot problems, take on big ideas and provide face-to-face service for our residents is achieved while still providing flexibility for our personnel to work from home.”
The letter’s authors, who count themselves among the 300 elected officials comprising MWCOG’s membership, also stressed the importance of predictable public transit ridership as OMB weighs government agencies’ strategies for bringing workers back to the office.
For example, the MWCOG members pointed out how their respective jurisdictions’ working relationship with the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) services “to ensure [federal] workers experience safe and timely commutes via our rail system,” adding that they also partner with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Federal workers constitute the majority of WMATA riders, the letter continued, noting that coordinating with these transit systems is critical as OMB considers return-to-work plans from agencies across the federal government.
“It is difficult,” the officials wrote, “to efficiently operate train systems and WMATA without predictable ridership spread across the workweek.”
20 September 2023
HR News Article