Tuesday Insight – April 25th, 2023: White House Tells Agencies to Strike a Balance Between Telework, In-Office Work

May 22, 2023

Federal agencies have new guidance from the White House on their return-to-office and telework policies.

The Office of Management and Budget called on agencies to try to strike a balance between adding in-person work where necessary, while still maintaining telework flexibilities.

Agencies are expected to increase “meaningful” in-person work at federal offices, especially at headquarters offices, OMB said in a memo published Thursday.

OMB said meaningful in-office work is “purposeful, well-planned and optimized for in-person collaboration.”

At the same time, agencies should continue to use more flexible policies on employees’ work locations, and maintain telework arrangements where they make sense, as a recruitment and retention tool for the federal workforce.

The announcement from OMB came just days after President Joe Biden signed a Republican-backed congressional resolution to end the COVID-19 national emergency Tuesday, several weeks ahead of its scheduled expiration date.

The memo also comes one year after agencies started executing office re-entry plans last spring.

“It is the right time for agencies to assess their work environments, reflecting on what they have learned as they build routines for measuring and monitoring organizational health and organizational performance,” OMB Director Shalanda Young said in the memo.

New deadlines for agencies

Under the new OMB guidance, agencies have a 30-day deadline to update their “work environment plans” for agency headquarters. These plans should generally guide individual agency telework and in-office work policies.

Along with updating work environment plans, agencies should define, within the next month, an agency lead for the plan, the way they will implement the changes, and how to effectively measure and monitor.

“Where agencies are successful, we will scale and replicate best practices. Where agencies fall short, including if their workplace policies negatively impact results, they must be held accountable and work to make responsible changes, improve their operations and tackle challenges wherever they arise,” Jason Miller, OMB’s deputy director for management, said in a blog post Thursday.

To determine how much agencies should stray from their current office and telework arrangements, it depends on the individual situation.

“Planning should recognize that some operating units have improved performance while using workplace flexibilities, while also optimizing in-person work and strong, sustainable organization health and culture,” OMB said.

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