Federal Employees News Digest

Pandemic led nearly 60 percent of feds teleworking

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned workplaces worldwide upside-down, shuttering crowded office centers and shifting thousands of workers to telework—shaking up decades-long patterns in which a physical commute separated home life and work.

A new report shows that this massive upending is certainly the case across the federal community: Through the pandemic a maximum of nearly 60% of feds were teleworking full-time, according to the document, produced by the Office of Personnel Management.

While quick growth in high-speed internet already had led many feds to work from home or remote locations pre-pandemic, nothing has rocked the agency work world, pushing it to telework, like the novel coronavirus. 

On March 13, 2020, the Trump administration declared COVID a public health emergency, heralding scores of federal, state and local laws and orders restricting and counseling against travel or assemblies of any kind. That same month, leading federal agencies issued guidance urging increased telework and reductions in travel along with additional measures to protect feds from COVID.

Now, over a year later, OPM’s figures on telework—from a slice of the newly released Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey—are shedding light on just how much COVID cranked up telework.

“Survey results show remarkable resilience of the federal workforce during a year of unprecedented hardship,” the Office of Personnel Management, which conducts FEVS, said in a release. “While only 3% of respondents reported teleworking every workday prior to the pandemic, participation in full-time telework increased substantially during the pandemic with 59% of respondents reporting teleworking every day during the peak of the pandemic and 47% teleworking daily at the time they responded to the survey.”

So, up from three in a hundred feds teleworking daily, suddenly, to far more than half. That’s a real quantum leap!

The report notes that, since COVID, an even higher percentage, up to 74%, of feds found themselves teleworking at least one day a week.

The rapid shift to telework among the majority of workers likely saved thousands of lives. Still, it should be noted that the federal response—including how fast and how often telework and leave-taking have been permitted by federal employers—has been uneven across agencies. And against the ups and downs of these federal agency responses—as well as White House, statehouse and other public health moves—there remains no authoritative tally of federal employee deaths. In any case, nearly 600,000 people overall are estimated to have died in America of the disease, and millions more worldwide.

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