By Dan Gephart, July 26, 2021

The telework paradigm shifted greatly during the pandemic and nowhere is that clearer than in the 38-page guidance the Office of Personnel Management released late last week.

While titled “Additional Guidance on Post-Reentry Personnel Policies and Work Environment,” the memorandum written by OPM Director Kiran A. Ahuja, and the majority of “Frequently Asked Questions” section focus on telework and remote work.

Ahuja wrote: “[A]gencies can, where appropriate, deploy personnel policies such as telework and remote work effectively and efficiently as strategic management tools for attracting, retaining, and engaging talent to advance agency missions, including in the context of changes in workplaces nationwide as a result of the pandemic and in response to long-term workforce trends.”

The guidance suggests that agencies “take this opportunity to adjust their telework policies to reflect a new understanding about how telework has worked at their agencies.” OPM provides the following roadmap of considerations when crafting your post re-entry telework policies:

1 – Make telework determinations based on the functions of the job, and not mere managerial preference.

2 – Treat employees with similar work functions across work units similarly when determining telework eligibility.

3 – To the extent possible, try to align telework programs with employee needs and the business goals of each work unit to avoid a one-size fits all approach to telework participation.

4 – When possible, have consistent telework policies across locations.

5 – When possible, consider restructuring jobs so that all employees, theoretically, could be eligible for at least situational or occasional telework.

6 – Make all employees aware of the agency’s telework policy and criteria for telework participation.

7 – Require all teleworkers and supervisors of teleworkers complete appropriate training before entering into a telework agreement.

8 – Provide adequate telework training to supervisors on how to assess and manage the performance of teleworkers.

9 – If appropriate, allow some or all teleworkers to meet emergency operations or COOP duties through telework rather than reporting to the normal or designated COOP site. Encourage mission essential and non-mission essential employees to practice telework to help the agency prepare to meet emergency situations.

The OPM guidance also reminds agencies to complete applicable collective bargaining obligations before directing employees to return to the physical workspace. OPM wrote:

“While an agency has the right under 5 U.S.C. 7106(a) to determine the location where particular employees will work, there may be an obligation to collectively bargain on implementation of any decision to return employees from maximum telework status prior to implementation of this decision.”

This guidance will be discussed this Friday during The 2021 Telework Challenge, the fifth and final day of FELTG’s Post-Pandemic Federal Workplace: Managing Accountability and EEO Challenges. You can still register for any of the remaining days, including Friday’s session. This latest OPM guidance will be wrapped into other upcoming training including EEO Challenges, COVID-19, and a Return to Workplace Normalcy, a 3½-hour training that kicks off FELTG’s Federal Workplace 2021: Accountability, Challenges and Trends. [email protected]

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