The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued new guidance on Friday evening to assist agencies in their office reentry plans and policies, offering answers to frequently asked questions surrounding telework and reentry personnel policies.

The deadline for agencies to submit their final agency reentry plans was July 19, but the guidance intends to provide further assistance to agencies as they develop and implement their new personnel policies.

OPM said the 38-page guidance was developed in coordination with the General Services Administration and with input from a Chief Human Capital Officers Council working group.

“In light of the steps agencies undertook at the outset of the pandemic, OPM expects that many more Federal employees will be eligible to telework on a regular basis post-reentry,” Kiran Ahuja, OPM director, wrote in the guidance. “Agencies should start re-assessing schedules for and frequency of telework, based upon the experiences of the last 15 months, and re-establish them in a way that best meets mission needs (including the agency’s ability to compete for qualified candidates and retain talent).”

OPM said agencies may want to seize this opportunity to provide more flexible telework policies, saying “supervisors may see mission delivery, productivity, or employee engagement benefits” in doing so.

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“As agencies consider personnel policies and associated flexibilities in their post-reentry work environments, informed by consultation with agency leadership, supervisors, employees, and employee representatives, we strongly encourage agency travel and human resources offices to collaborate when establishing telework and remote work policies that may affect location-based pay entitlements and travel benefits,” Ahuja wrote.

The new guidance indicates expanded telework opportunities will remain well after the pandemic, and OPM clearly stated that telework should not be viewed as an exception to “a traditional full-time in-person work schedule” or as “a performance management tool or incentive.”

“Rather, agencies should leverage their experiences with expanded telework during the pandemic to institutionalize telework programs as a routine way of doing business,” Ahuja said in the guidance.

At the height of the pandemic, nearly 60 percent of Federal workers were teleworking daily – a drastic increase from 3 percent pre-pandemic. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases nationwide due to the Delta variant, agencies can determine just how many employees they wish to have back in the office or if they wish to adjust their telework policies.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.