Biden administration urges return to office for federal workers

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New guidance from the Office of Management and Budget urges federal workers to return to the office full-time, while still allowing some flexibility for working from home.

The 19-page memo from the Biden administration office does not set concrete dates or targets for moving to in-office work, and does encourage remote work where it has been most efficient, perhaps making some telework a standard part of federal agencies going forward.

Under the new guidelines, federal agencies must submit a report entailing how they plan to improve “organizational health and performance,” according to Jason Miller, a deputy director at the OMB.

The policy’s purpose is “substantially increasing in-person work,” he said.

The move comes parallel to the official end to the COVID-19 pandemic next month. Due to the pandemic, most office workers around the country moved to working all or partly from home. Workers have trickled back in since 2021, with some companies in the private sector mandating in-office work.

In his State of the Union address last year, Biden pledged to bring workers back to the office.

“It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,” he said.

Biden has repeatedly faced concerns from Republicans and some Democrats that a work-from-home federal bureaucracy is less accountable to the public.

“Requests for updates on actual cases by email and phone go unreturned, and our constituents feel like no one can help them,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R – Ariz.) told Office of Personnel Management director Kiran Ahuja in a House hearing last month.

Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has also encouraged the Biden administration to encourage federal workers back to the office, citing declining business revenues in the city’s downtown.

Union officials representing federal employees are encouraging the OMB to allow telework flexibility for workers.

“Every human being hates commuting,” said Jacqueline Simon, the public policy director at the American Federation of Government Employees.

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