Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are keeping up their pressure on the White House for data on Federal employees’ work from home habits, and on policy changes being pursued by the Biden administration that will return more Feds to their traditional office locations.

In a letter sent to White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients last week, Republican lawmakers want to know specifically how telework is affecting agency productivity and employee performance.

The letter from lawmakers comes after Zients emailed agency heads earlier in August, telling them to start aggressively increasing return-to-office plans this fall. Committee Republicans are looking for the reasons behind the Biden administration’s decision to increase in-office work.

“The American people deserve to understand the Biden Administration’s post-pandemic telework policy and the thinking behind the Biden Administration’s rapidly evolving telework posture,” three Oversight and Accountability Committee Republicans – Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. – wrote in the Aug. 31 letter.

The committee is requesting responses to three questions by Sept. 14:

  • What motivated the White House’s call for Federal agencies to transition away from telework to more in-person work;
  • Whether any congressional inquiries about post-pandemic Federal telework contributed to the White House’s sudden push to increase in-person work; and
  • Whether the White House had become aware of diminished performance by Federal employees under the Biden administration’s post-pandemic telework policy.

Rep. Comer has long been an advocate for getting Feds back in the office, spearheading legislation that would roll back Federal agency telework policies to their year-end 2019 levels. The Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act passed the House on Feb. 1.

House Oversight Republicans led by Rep. Comer have twice requested that Federal agencies share data on how many of their employees are teleworking – once in May and then again in August after not receiving an initial response.

Many Feds don’t have as many negative feelings about teleworking, with the Government Accountability Office finding that working remotely generally has a positive effect on productivity and performance.

Several agencies are following executive guidance to increase in-person work this fall – like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management – but still allowing employees to spend about half of their time at home, embracing a hybrid Federal workforce.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.