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Post: Biden: Get federal workers back in the office



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US President Joe Biden is telling his Cabinet members to get federal employees back into the office beginning this fall, according to a White House email obtained last week by Axios.

“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,” Biden wrote in an email.

The email from White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said that with the end of the COVID-19 health emergency and with fall approaching, agencies will be implementing increases in the amount of in-person work. “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 wrote.

The latest White House missive follows a similar one in April that called for leaders to increase “meaningful” in-person work, particularly at agency headquarters in order to improve customer service, according to The Washington Post. The move doesn’t mean an end to  remote or hybrid work among federal employees, according to the email; Instead, it’s calling for workers to spend more time in the office “to build a strong culture, trust, and interpersonal connections.”

Due to remote work policies, only 25% or less of federal buildings were fully utilized at one point last year, according to a Government Accountability Office study of three separate weeks from January to March 2022. “Underutilized office space has financial and environmental costs,” the GAO said. “Federal agencies spend about $2 billion a year to operate and maintain federal office buildings regardless of the buildings’ utilization. In addition, agencies spend about $5 billion annually to lease office buildings.”

The Biden edict mirrors a trend in the private sector. Bosses are imposing more strict in-office mandates as new data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed productivity slumped slightly since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, productivity declined 1.9%, according to BLS, “the sharpest two-year decline in over 75 years of recorded data.”

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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