The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a memo dated March 15 asked Federal agency and department heads to offer “maximum telework flexibilities” to all current telework-eligible Federal employees in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The NCR includes Washington, D.C., Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William counties in Virginia.

OMB said that in light of the “evolving situation” with the COVID-19 coronavirus and the NCR “experiencing community transmission” of the virus, the administration “wants to ensure that department and agency leaders assertively safeguard the health and safety of their work force while remaining open to serve the American people and conduct mission critical functions.”

Agencies “are asked to offer maximum telework capabilities to all current telework eligible employees, consistent with operational needs of the departments and agencies as determined by their heads,” OMB said.

For employees not eligible for telework, OMB asked agencies to “use all existing authorities” to offer them telework “to the extent their work could be telework enabled.” Agencies also have the discretion to offer non-telework eligible employees “weather and safety leave,” OMB said, including employees who were not considered “at higher risk” under guidance provided late last week.

The previous guidance from OMB asked Federal agencies to maximize telework flexibilities for the portions of the Federal workforce that are most at risk of severe illness from the virus, but stopped well short of broad approval of telework for all eligible Federal employees.

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That guidance – which apparently remains operative for Federal employees outside the NCR – turns on a definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of higher-risk employees including those who are pregnant, older, and have chronic health conditions.



The latest OMB guidance also instructs agency heads to develop operational plans that “maximize resources and functional areas to most safely and efficiently deliver these mission-critical functions and other Government services,” including implementation of staggered work schedules and other mitigation measures.

Finally, the guidance issued March 15 urges agencies to consult with current CDC operating guidance to maximize safe working environments and “implement substantial mitigation strategies in the workplace.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.