Work from home jobs have become a permanent reality for many American federal government employees, despite opposition from Republican politicians. The Republican majority in the House has recently introduced a bill that would undermine hybrid work arrangements for federal workers, forcing government employees back into the office and out of any work-from-home strategies. The theory behind this bill is that agencies cannot be as productive out of the office as they are in it.
However, this bill already faces a number of difficulties and a new one has just surfaced: the start of union contracts that include promises of flexible work. This means that even if the bill were to become law, it would be difficult to implement and enforce.
The bill, introduced by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the new chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee that oversees federal agencies, is called the “Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems,” or “SHOW UP” Act of 2023. If it should become law, it would require within 30 days of enactment that every federal agency would have to return to the “telework policies, practices, and levels of the agency as in effect on December 31, 2019, and may not expand any such policy, practices, or levels until the date that an agency plan is submitted to Congress with a certification by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.”
The general sense seems similar to what The Real Estate Roundtable suggested in a letter to President Biden in December 2022. A similar bill was filed in May 2022 by former Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico who lost her reelection bid for office last year and who is no longer in Congress.
However, the passage of this bill faces serious opposition from the administration. For instance, in July 2022, Kiran Ahuja, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, conveyed to a Congressional committee that a flexible work environment is essential in order to draw and retain exceptional employees in the current competitive job market.
Given that passage into law would require a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Biden to go along, enactment of the Republican bill seems very unlikely. Potentially, Republicans could use passage of a final budget or even an increase of the debt ceiling, as a negotiation to push the measure into law, assuming they can get the votes.
However, union agreements would still pose a serious challenge. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) boasts a membership of over 281,000 individuals working in almost every agency of the federal and D.C. governments, spanning across 936 local unions. In December 2022, after prolonged legal battles with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the union announced that they had reached a settlement for immediate flexible work arrangements while they negotiate terms for a permanent telework program.
If this becomes a widespread practice in union negotiations with the government, it would create additional challenges in implementing new legislation, if it passes through the entire legislative process.
The reality is that work from home jobs have become a permanent reality for many American federal government employees, despite opposition from Republican politicians. This is in part due to the increasing flexibility and productivity that has been seen in work-from-home arrangements, as well as the cost savings that can be realized, as I have observed from consulting on hybrid work for companies and government agencies alike.
For example, a government agency found that their employees were able to be more productive when working from home, as they were able to avoid the distractions and interruptions that come with working in an office environment. Additionally, the agency was able to save money on office space and other expenses. And most of all, they were able to retain employees who would have otherwise transitioned to the private sector.
One key point to consider is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way we work. The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards remote work, with many companies quickly pivoting to work from home arrangements in order to keep their employees safe and comply with public health guidelines. This has shown that work from home jobs can be just as effective, if not more so, than working in an office environment.
Additionally, it’s worth considering the impact of work from home jobs on employee well-being and work-life balance. Many employees have reported that working from home allows them to better balance their work and personal responsibilities, leading to improved mental and physical health. This has led to a more engaged and motivated workforce, which in turn can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Another key point to consider is the environmental impact of remote work. With more people working from home, there is a reduction in the amount of CO2 emissions from commuting, fewer cars on the road and less traffic congestion, and less demand for office space. This can have a significant positive impact on the environment, and it’s worth considering in decision making.
In addition to these points, it’s important to note that work from home jobs are not just beneficial for employees, but also for companies and government agencies. Companies that have implemented work from home jobs have seen an increase in productivity and cost savings. This can lead to increased competitiveness in the marketplace, and it’s a strategy that many companies and agencies are relying on as a way to attract and retain top talent. Clearly, the Biden administration is well-aware of this strategy, as Kiran Ahuja’s statements indicate.
Despite these benefits, there are still some who argue that work from home jobs are not as effective as working in an office environment. However, these arguments are often based on cognitive biases, such as the status quo bias. The status quo bias causes leaders and politicians to prefer what they know and are comfortable with, namely in-office work. They overestimate the benefits of returning to the office and underestimate the benefits of working from home.
In conclusion, the evidence is clear: work from home jobs are becoming a permanent reality for US federal government employees. The benefits of remote work are numerous, including increased productivity, cost savings, and employee well-being. The Republican majority’s bill to force federal workers back into the office is not a viable solution, and it’s important for leaders to consider the long-term impact of this strategy on their organization. As companies and the government continue to adapt to the new normal, it’s important to remember that work from home jobs are here to stay, and we must continue to find ways to make the most of this new way of working.
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Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on March 23, 2023.
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.