The Office of Personnel Management outlined its intention to extend telework well into its phased reopening of facilities, in a preparedness guide released Tuesday.
The return from max telework will occur on a facility-by-facility basis across OPM’s more than 20 properties housing between 2 and 1,200 employees each. Facilities won’t reopen until the local jurisdiction they’re located in lifts quarantine restrictions, according to the guide.
OPM will continue to encourage telework in phases 1 and 2 of reopening, particularly with employees whose transit and parking options remain disrupted or who have children without dependent care. Special accommodations may be made for the most vulnerable, and the guide directs agency heads to “strongly encourage” alternative service levels or work arrangements that reduce the number of employees in the office.
“To the extent practical, meetings will continue to be held virtually,” reads the guide. “If required, in-person meetings will utilize recommended social distancing (six feet) between participants and will include a limited number of attendees.”
Employees will work in shifts if an open workspace can’t be guaranteed with only personnel whose duties are “essential” required to return, according to the guide.
Face masks are recommended but not required by OPM, though it will supply personal protective equipment to employees responsible for dispersing personal identity verification badges and provide sanitizer near shared equipment like printers.
Employees will receive a week’s notice before a facility’s reopening.
Only in phase 3 will unrestricted staffing resume and employee requests for special accommodations like telework and alternative scheduling be reviewed case by case. Social distancing protocols will be reviewed and revised, with OPM potentially reverting to a previous phase if COVID-19 cases resurge.
All of this is contingent upon local governments lifting quarantine restrictions based on the White House “Opening Up America Again” guidelines. Three criteria must be met:
- A decrease in influenza-like illness and COVID-19 cases reported for 14 days
- A decrease in documented COVID-19 cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests for 14 days, with a flat or increasing volume of tests
- And hospitals treating all COVID-19 patients without crisis care and with robust testing and antibody testing for at-risk health care workers
Other agencies like the departments of Energy, Agriculture and Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency have also issued guidance and plans for how they will begin phasing employees back into the office.