In an April memo, the Biden administration called on federal agencies to refresh their work environment plans and policies to “reflect the expectation that agency headquarters and equivalents generally continue to substantially increase meaningful in-person work in federal offices.”
The results of a new survey suggest that government agencies looking to avoid a mass employee exodus should tread carefully as they consider how much to scale back on remote and flexible work options.
Eagle Hill Consulting recently polled more than 1,000 U.S. workers, including 511 federal, state and local government workers, to gauge their views on working remotely. Nearly half (45%) of the government employees surveyed said they would consider looking for a new job should their agency reduce remote and hybrid work flexibility going forward.
In addition, 59% of remote and hybrid government workers said their job satisfaction would decrease if their employer required them to return to in-person work. Another 44% said their productivity would drop in the event they were forced to come back to the office, with 45% indicating that such a mandate would decrease the amount of time they stayed with their current employer.
Government employees also voiced their anxieties about how more in-person work could adversely affect them, with 45% feeling that going back to the office would lead to less work/life balance. Another 43% said they were concerned about commute times, with 38% and 34% saying the same about taking on additional costs and stress, respectively.
“Government leaders are on a tightrope when it comes to the new telework and organizational health guidance released by the Office of Management and Budget,” said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, in a statement.
“While the guidance recognizes the need to balance organizational productivity and worker retention, crafting new work environment plans will be complicated. Our research suggests that approaches to remote and hybrid government work must be nuanced and there is common ground.”
Finding the Right Balance
Another recent survey found that many government employees feel that working remotely has had a positive effect on their productivity.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) polled more than 3,100 government employees in March of this year, with 71% of respondents saying that telework improved productivity at their agency “a great deal.” All told, 97% reported that working remotely in the three-plus years since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has either improved their organization’s productivity or had no effect on their output.
In the aforementioned Eagle Hill Consulting poll, government workers cited specific ways in which remote work has improved their output. For example, respondents said work that is better achieved remotely included deep thinking (64%), research (61%) and focus time (58%).
That said, the same Eagle Hill Consulting survey suggests that government employees do see the value of in-person work. For example, these workers cited more socialization (42%) and improved collaboration (34%) among the benefits of requiring a return to working in person. More than half (54%) said those who work more in the office are more likely to be successful in their roles. Government respondents were split in terms of whether they are more productive spending a full day in the workplace (53%) compared to spending part of the day at the office (47%).
“Government employees know that some work is best accomplished in-person, especially work that requires collaboration or is classified,” said Jezior. Many government workers, however, bristle at in-person mandates, she said, out of concerns about work/life balance, commute times and other factors.
“This means government leaders will need to focus on flexibility, perhaps allowing remote work for individualized tasks, reimagining traditional work schedules and having collaborative time in the workplace,” said Jezior.
“The research is clear that most government employees want a certain degree of in-person work, but they don’t like rigid rules on how they work. In the end, agencies that best navigate remote work will have a high level of trust between employees and managers, an environment that fosters good communication and effective processes for managing performance outcomes.”
26 May 2023
HR News Article