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House Lawmakers Look to Leverage Increased Telework Benefits in Federal Recruitment

Lawmakers are exploring telework options for federal employees past the pandemic, as the next generation of civil servants gravitate toward the private sector in large part due to remote working benefits and other flexible job perks.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform convened on Wednesday to discuss how to attract and retain that younger demographic of employees, specifically exploring the benefits of telework for government jobs. 

Spearheaded by Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-Va.), who serves as committee chairman, the hearing referenced national data revealing that roughly 30% of federal employees are over the age of 55, implying a large portion of the public workforce is looking to retire within the next decade. 

Filling this void will require the government to take pages out of the private sector’s playbook when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. Some of the improvements Connolly mentioned include a streamlined hiring process, competitive wages, and a robust internship program to help young workers seamlessly secure jobs on the Hill and in other government agencies.

Many of his arguments in favor of telework expansion hinged on remote work corresponding to increases in employee productivity. “Preliminary findings show that the move to telework largely increased employee productivity,” Connolly said during his opening remarks. “A March 2021 Department of Defense Inspector General survey of more than 56,000 personnel found that 91.1% of employees said their productivity either remained the same or improved while teleworking during the pandemic.”

Witnesses who testified during the hearing broadly voiced support for expanded access to federal teleworking. Kenneth Thomas, the president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said most members of his organization support remote work capabilities. 

“Federal agencies may also be able to take advantage of the changing nature of work by expanding telework operations over the long term,” Thomas said. “Such an approach could save taxpayers through increased productivity and provide a more attractive work environment for many current and prospective employees.” 

Other witnesses, including Mika Cross, a federal workplace specialist and Michelle Amante, the vice president of the Federal Workforce Programs office within Partnership for Public Service, added that increased telework options can bolster regional and ethnic diversity in the federal workforce.

“It [telework] increases opportunities for young people to join public service, and welcomes more workers with disabilities,” Cross said. 

“Many of the top employers in the private industry who are remaining remote or committing to a hybrid model moving forward are simply using a process by presuming that if employees were working that way during the pandemic successfully, then they can continue to do so,” Amante added.

One point of contention emerged when Rep. Jody Hice, (R-Ga.), highlighted the need for metrics in evaluating whether or not remote work would be an efficient and viable option for federal employees. 

Connolly agreed that metrics are “key to measuring effectiveness” and monitoring risk factors like fraud. 

source: NextGov