Chief of Staff Jeff Zients is urging Cabinet heads to execute in-person work policies in September and October.
President Biden is urging Cabinet officials to encourage a higher number of their employees to come back to the office this fall. This call is part of an effort to restore normalcy after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients wrote to Cabinet officials on Friday. “As we look towards the fall, and with the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, 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.”
Zients emphasized that being physically present at work is very important, especially for newer staff members. He mentioned that the White House has been following this approach for the last two years, holding large events like holiday parties safely.
The recent action seemed to increase the pressure on federal agencies after a similar message from the White House budget office in April. That earlier guidance was issued when the pandemic forced many federal employees to work from home.
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office have recently intensified their calls for a strong return to office work, as statistics released in July revealed many vacant offices in Washington headquarters.
According to the Government Accountability Office, many agency headquarters remained underutilized as employees worked from home for three separate weeks in early 2022. The data showed that 17 out of 24 large agencies were at just 25 percent capacity or less.
“Underutilized office space has financial and environmental costs,” the report found.
According to officials, federal agencies expend approximately $2 billion annually for the maintenance of their owned office buildings and roughly $5 billion for leasing office space, irrespective of occupancy status.
Acknowledging the Shift from Remote Work
Zients appeared to acknowledge the potential difficulty of convincing more federal workers to return to the office after many have become accustomed to the conveniences of remote work.
The recent letter from Jeff Zients does not express dissatisfaction with the pace of returning to offices but emphasizes the significance of in-person work going forward.
“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,” he wrote.
“These changes will allow us to harness the benefits of enhanced flexibilities that we experienced during the pandemic while ensuring we have the in-person time we need to build a strong culture, trust, and interpersonal connections.”
“It will take hard work and focus to make this change and to consistently communicate with your staff about why the change matters — and why this is the right step for your agency and for your mission,” he wrote.
Source: The Washington Post