President Biden during his State of the Union address called on “the vast majority” of Federal employees to return to the office amid improving COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

During his March 1 speech and in a letter issued to the Federal workforce ahead of the address to Congress, President Biden hinted that many Federal employees will be called back into the office to “lead by example” for the rest of America.

“It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again. People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office,” President Biden said during the State of the Union address. “We’re doing that here in the Federal government. The vast majority of Federal workers will once again work in person.”

New guidance this week from the White House’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force also reflects this new outlook with relaxed masking guidance. The task force said Federal agencies located where community transmission for COVID-19 is “low” or “medium,” do not need to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. Those agencies located in “high” areas will still need to require masks.

However, calling Federal employees to return to the office may not mean a return to March 2020 times, but likely more of a hybrid model.

Neither President Biden nor the White House task force has offered any firm details on when, or to what extent, Federal workers will be returning to their traditional work sites.

In the coming months, President Biden said the Federal government will “build on the innovations and technologies that we put to work serving the American people throughout the pandemic, making our government more efficient, resilient, and effective.”

President Biden notably expanded telework options for Federal employees in June 2021, allowing agencies to offer flexible work-from-home and hybrid schedules to employees. Additionally, the latest guidance from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) offered agencies performance management tips for the hybrid workplace.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said the guidance is only the first of many “in the series of toolkits and resources” that OPM will provide to agencies this year as they navigate a hybrid work environment.

“Because of our progress combatting the pandemic, we can safely increase in-person work, while continuing to protect your health and safety,” Biden said in his letter. “Together, we can lead by example and show our country a way forward – not only by what we do, but by how we do it.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.