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U.S. Government Joins List Of Employers Expanding Permanent Remote, Hybrid Work

President Joe Biden

The largest employer in the U.S. is set to embrace remote and hybrid work on a permanent basis for many of its workers.

The administration of President Joe Biden plans to release guidance in June for its myriad divisions on return-to-office plans for the short and long term, and that guidance will likely give departments broad leeway to keep their office usage flexible, The Washington Post reports. Some departments, like the Department of Agriculture, have already laid out some plans for more remote work. The USDA will allow many employees to work from home up to four days a week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a March town hall reported by the Post.

An annual survey of federal employees released in late April found that average job satisfaction was higher in 2020 than in previous years despite an increased workload, partly due to the advantages of working from home, the Post reports. The portion of federal workers doing their jobs from home rose from 3% in 2019 to a peak of 59% at one point during 2020.

The Obama administration had been slowly expanding flexible work options before then-President Donald Trump rolled back many of those policies, the Post reports. Then-President Barack Obama's rationale, which has been echoed in recent months by representatives of both management and unions, is that increased remote work allows for better recruitment of applicants who may be reluctant to move for a new job.

Many of the 2.1 million federal employees have public-facing jobs that require office hours, especially lower-level staff members, and lawmakers have expressed concern that increased remote work has resulted in a backlog of work for agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Post reports. 

But with private companies all over the country evaluating their space needs in relation to new work parameters, the Biden administration could wind up doing the same for its 376M SF portfolio.

“Collectively, the federal government has an opportunity for a ‘leap frog’ moment to shape the future of work,” Department of Defense spokesperson Susan Gough told the Post in an email.