By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House wants federal agencies to “aggressively” execute a shift to more in-person work starting next month, saying it is crucial to delivering government services.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, in an email on Friday, said “we are returning to in-person work because it is critical to the well-being of our teams and will enable us to deliver better results for the American people.”
Zients said “your agencies will be implementing increases in the amount of in-person work for your team. This is a priority of the president — and I am looking to each of you to aggressively execute this shift in September and October.”
His email was first reported on Friday by Axios and confirmed on Saturday by Reuters.
In April, the White House Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to revise workforce plans as it aims to “substantially increase” in-person work by government employees at headquarters offices, according to a memo first reported by Reuters.
Biden in April ended the three-year COVID-19 emergency. Many of the 2 million civilian federal employees began working remotely in March 2020 but about half were required to remain in-person throughout the pandemic.
The Government Accountability Office said in July a review of selected weeks in early 2023 showed 17 of 24 federal agencies used on average an estimated 25% or less of headquarters capacity.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Department said last month they expect teleworking government employees to boost in-person work.
The FAA expects employees by Oct. 9 to increase in-office presence to at least three days per week, according to an email first reported by Reuters.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told employees “we need to be around each other in-person more than we are now to ensure this department’s long-term success.”
USDOT expects teleworking employees to report in person a minimum of three days every two weeks starting Sept. 10 and a minimum of four days per pay period starting Dec. 3.
Some Republican lawmakers have pressed federal agencies to require more government workers to return to offices. In February, the House passed legislation to mandate federal agencies reinstate 2019 pre-pandemic telework policies.