Youth leader

Agency leaders should listen more and act on employee feedback on reintegration

Agencies have held town halls, held listening sessions and distributed surveys about back-to-office plans, but beyond listening, leaders should include employee feedback in actions.

Nearly half of employees said leaders don’t listen to their concerns or questions about reintegrating into the office in an exclusive Federal News Network online survey.

Leaders “hear but don’t listen,” wrote one respondent.

“Listening is not the same as acting or responding,” wrote another.

These are just…

READ MORE

Agencies have held town halls, held listening sessions and distributed surveys about back-to-office plans, but beyond listening, leaders should include employee feedback in actions.

Nearly half of employees said leaders don’t listen to their concerns or questions about reintegrating into the office in an exclusive Federal News Network online survey.

Leaders “hear but don’t listen,” wrote one respondent.

“Listening is not the same as acting or responding,” wrote another.

These are just some of the responses Federal News Network received after asking a series of questions about the agencies’ back-to-office plans.

A survey participant added: ‘They hear us, and I think to some extent they seem sympathetic, but they don’t seem to hesitate to bring us back to the office despite two years of evidence showing that we don’t. We don’t need to come to the office to do our job well.

Federal News Network garnered 3,279 responses, of which 72% said they worked for a civilian agency, 15% worked for the Department of Defense, and the rest in the intelligence community (FNN removed those who identified as retired from the pool of data).

While many employees want maximum telework to continue, more than half of survey participants said they were unhappy with how their agencies were conducting return-to-work plans. This dissatisfaction creates a ripple effect.

“Productivity levels were at an all-time high in a remote posture, primarily because there were no extended commutes and traditional office-related distractions. Since returning, productivity has plummeted, morale has plummeted, and motivation has plummeted. Unfortunately, we have also lost several employees to other employers who offered a full-time remote position,” one employee wrote.

Over the past two years, many employees said the pandemic has shown they can continue to support their agencies’ missions while working remotely. Responses varied across the board, but many said the flexibility, lack of commuting, and limited distractions actually made working remotely more productive than working in the office.

“If anything, the government gets more hours and productivity from the federal workforce because they don’t have to worry about [things like] long journeys or departures for family events. More flexibility equals more willingness to produce at the highest level,” one respondent wrote.

More telework means more productivity

Many employees said they want agency leaders to develop return-to-work plans that maximize telecommuting for all positions that allow it.

Greater productivity, better work-life balance and higher employee satisfaction were common factors for many employees throughout the pandemic, the survey showed.

“The past two years have proven that my position can be full-time remotely without any impact to my organization’s mission,” one employee wrote.

Telecommuting often limits distractions, employees said. In fact, more than half of survey participants said their productivity decreased while working in the office.

“One hundred percent of my work can be done remotely via telecommuting. My productivity decreases when I’m in the noisy world of my office. It’s impossible to have a work phone call or present via Teams on days I’m in the office due to all the background noise,” one respondent wrote.

Some, however, said they felt isolated and unsatisfied with working remotely. An employee who recently joined the federal workforce said that working remotely was not helpful.

“As a new federal employee, I don’t feel like I’ve been well served by the virtual environment,” the respondent wrote.

It’s not just new federal employees who said they liked the idea of ​​returning to the office. Several survey participants said that working in the office was positive for them.

“I love face-to-face communication and wouldn’t mind working in the office more, but I’ve also learned to appreciate the flexibility and simplicity of working from home,” wrote one respondent.

“I think two to three days at a physical location and two to three days working from home is ideal,” wrote another.

Overall, however, many survey participants said productivity was highest when working remotely.

“It is obvious that the work is reaching deadlines, even before in some cases, with telework. I worry that productivity will decrease once back in the office,” one respondent wrote.

Flexibility Can Solve Federal Retention Issues

When it came to making back-to-school plans, a common theme was that the more flexibility, the better.

“Providing the most flexibility in determining return to the office makes it easier to accommodate returning to the physical workspace,” one respondent wrote.

Some also said office reintegration plans and the lack of flexibility for telecommuting and remote work could compound the seemingly endless problem of recruiting and retaining federal employees. The remote work policy affects the desire of younger generations to enter the public service.

“Recruitment and retention will continue to lag until positions not open to the public are deemed eligible remotely,” wrote one respondent.

This trend also exists in other surveys. The third round of government-wide impulse surveys showed that many employees said they would leave the federal service for a job with more telecommuting flexibility – the trend is true even for the most efficient.

Additionally, the Office of Personnel Management’s 2021 Federal Employee Perspective Survey showed a decline in employee satisfaction and engagement over the past year, in part related to the employee dissatisfaction with agency office reintegration plans.

Along with flexibility, commuting was a particularly sensitive topic in FNN’s survey. Commuting was the most common reason behind return-to-work concerns, with 86% of employees saying it worried them.

“It’s a waste to go to an office and do exactly what I do at home without the 90 minute commute,” wrote one respondent.

Many others echoed similar sentiments, saying commuting-free both improves productivity and saves them time in a day they would otherwise have spent commuting to the office.

“Over the past two years, I have proven my ability to work productively from home full time. ‘enduring a long commute there and back. My quality of life has improved dramatically and my paycheck now goes much further without the cost of travel and food in DC,’ one survey participant wrote.

Along with commuting, office safety and work-life balance were other concerns frequently shared by respondents.

“Remote work is the best work-life balance. Why didn’t we do this years ago? we wrote.

Leaders must not only listen, but also act

It’s important for agency leaders to listen and respond more to ongoing employee feedback, many respondents said.

The survey also showed a fairly even split when employees were asked if they felt comfortable sharing their concerns with management.

But some said it wasn’t just about being able to raise issues with managers.

“I share my concerns, but they don’t address any of them,” one respondent wrote.

Many employees said a simple “one size fits all” approach, such as a general policy of two days in the office per pay period, would not work. Some employees are in contact with the public, while many others can perform their work entirely remotely.

When asked if the Office of Management and Budget should offer more prescriptive advice to agencies on back-to-office policies, nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed.

But many said OMB’s approach should vary depending on the individual’s function. To maximize productivity and employee satisfaction, many respondents said agencies should implement a maximized telecommuting policy for everyone who can work remotely.

“Return to office plans need to be tailored based on agency needs and employee needs. A good balance can be struck by ensuring that everyone’s needs are met. I don’t believe in the pre-COVID model of working full-time from the office. What can be done via telecommuting should be done that way. What can only be done in the office or in a lab must be done in person. Both can be accommodated. Productivity is measurable,” wrote one respondent.

Some disagreed that the OMB would be able to effectively implement government-wide policy. Standardized guidelines may help some employees keep more work-from-home days, but others said they were already happy with their current telecommuting arrangements which provide more telecommuting flexibility than a government standard could. enforce.

“I like the way my agency is handling the situation and think they are doing a better job than most. I wouldn’t want to be held to a more restrictive policy,” one respondent wrote.

Another wrote: “I don’t think the OMB knows the needs of our agency any better than our management. One solution is rarely the best for multiple parties. »