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Biden Administration Calls For More In-Person Work At Federal Agencies


The Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to increase in-person work at their offices, especially at headquarters, according to a memo released late last week.

“It is the expectation that ... agencies will continue to substantially increase meaningful in-person work at Federal offices, particularly at headquarters and equivalents, while still using flexible operational policies as an important tool in talent recruitment and retention,” the memo said.

The memo defines “meaningful” in-person work as “purposeful, well-planned, and optimized for in-person collaboration.”

“Agencies are expected to consider this principle in their planning unless ... additional flexibility existed in 2019 or the agency can demonstrate clear benefits of additional flexibility to organizational health and organizational performance,” the memo said.

In March 2022, President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address that the “vast majority” of federal workers would soon return to the office.

That didn't happen last year, and the process has not always gone smoothly.

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tried to mandate a full five days per week in-office schedule for all its workers, dismissing the possibility for any remote work at all. The plan was swatted down by the Federal Labor Relations Authority after the union representing EEOC workers filed an unfair labor practice charge.

Other negotiations over remote work by federal employees have been less bumpy. In November 2022, the National Science Foundation agreed to allow employees to work remotely as many as eight days per pay period and expanded the number of remote workers allowed from eight to 150.

In December 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration made an agreement with its union allowing up to five remote workdays per week for all employees, “based on legitimate business needs.”

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring in-person work by federal government employees. All but one Republican member of the chamber voted for the bill, while only three Democrats supported it. The bill has not been taken up by the U.S. Senate.

“Where agencies are successful, we will scale and replicate best practices,” Jason Miller, OMB’s deputy director for management, said in a blog post regarding the recent directive.

“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,” Miller said.