OMB, OPM Preparing to Send Feds Back to the Office

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) are prepping Federal agencies to start sending employees back to the office, as outlined in a memo released today.

The timing and circumstances of returning Federal employees to their office locations remains uncertain, and to a large degree will track progress on tamping down the coronavirus on regional and national bases.

OMB Acting Director Russell Vought and OPM Acting Director Michael Rigas commended the Federal effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus through a variety of means including teleworking but, in accordance with the White House Opening Up America Again guidelines, they released a plan for Feds to return to normal operations.

“Now, in partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector, the Federal government is actively planning to ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant,” the memo reads.

The agency heads acknowledge that the transition back to the office will vary based on locality. They are recommending a move toward lifting mandatory telework guidelines in “low-risk” geographic areas.

Before phasing into the reopening process, communities in which Federal offices are located must report influenza-like and covid-like illnesses trending down for 14 days, documented cases of COVID-19 and positive tests trending down for 14 days, and local hospitals having capacity to treat all patients without crisis care and a “robust healthcare worker testing program plan” in place.

For now, however, OMB and OPM are still recommending maximum telework. Agency heads will maintain “appropriate telework protocols” per their discretion, but OMB and OPM recommend that the heads revisit telework policies frequently to “continue progressing to normal operations or address changing conditions.”

The memo qualifies, “Until agencies have resumed normal operations and risk is minimal, all Federal agencies are encouraged to maximize telework flexibilities to all eligible workers within those populations that the CDC has identified as being at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.”

Employees in good health and under the age of 65, according to the Opening Up America Again guidelines, can return to the work as directed by agency leadership and local public health advice in accordance with national guidelines.

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