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Biden Administration Left to Rue Their Remote Work Policy.

The plea to return to the office has so far been mostly unavailing.

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By Samuel Schaefer

The government’s COVID-19 protocols forced people into remote work, and now it appears that many federal employees intend to continue with remote work. In fact, 200,000 federal employees haven’t returned to the office. Biden’s Chief of Staff Jeff Zients has been working hard to motivate employees to return to the office but has found little success.

In August, Zients wrote a memo calling for a return to the workplace, but the policy has fallen on deaf ears, forcing Zients to put pressure on Cabinet secretaries to force their employees to return to the office for work.

“This is a priority of the President,” Zients said in his August memo, “and I am looking to each of you to aggressively execute this shift in September and October.”

Zients is holding up the Department of Veteran Affairs and U.S. Agency for International Development as success stories, because both agencies have nearly managed to hit the Administration’s benchmark. However, this is still a remarkably low target – asking employees to show up at the office five of every 10
work days.

This all comes after a Government Accountability Office report that found that 17 of 24 government agencies use 25% or less of their office space. This massive waste is shouldered by the American taxpayer.

“Federal agencies spend about $2 billion a year to operate and maintain federal office buildings regardless of the buildings’ utilization,” the report noted. “In addition, agencies spend about $5 billion annually to lease office buildings.”

The work-from-home measures that the Biden administration eagerly adopted during the Covid epidemic pushed people into a remote work environment, but now that same government is desperately trying to get workers to come back to the office.

The plea to return to the office has so far been mostly unavailing. In a recent EPA survey, 80% of employees commented that returning to the office would mean “personal hardships” for them. Jesus Soriano, the union president representing agency staff, is also against a return to in-person work. A union survey found that many “respondents characterized the new policy as unworkable, indicating they
would look for a new job or retire as a result of it.”

With such strong pushback from employees and unions alike, Biden’s chief of staff has had to resort to repeated meetings and emails that call for cabinet secretaries to “aggressively” push this policy reversal. Now, with GOP pressure also mounting and current efforts proving unsuccessful, we wait to see what the Biden Administration will do next.