Seventy percent of federal employees who telework say they are more productive while teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from Eagle Hill Consulting. The vast majority of the federal workforce indicates that they are more committed to their agency’s mission (79 percent), are more motivated to meet expectations (76 percent) and have more trust in their colleagues (70 percent) since working virtually in the wake of COVID-19.
Moreover, 68 percent of federal employees who telework want to increase telework, and only three percent want to telework less than they did prior to the pandemic. Nearly half (48 percent) of federal employees surveyed are new to teleworking.
These findings come as coronavirus infection rates surge in jurisdictions across the U.S. and states begin to rollback reopening plans. Experts indicate that the pandemic likely will continue to severely disrupt work and personal lives for months to come across the nation.
“This research tells us that teleworking really can and is working across government,” said Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill president and chief executive officer. “We’ve seen agencies trending away from telework, but the pandemic forced a rapid transition in the exact opposite direction. Overwhelmingly, employees are embracing teleworking and this may be a defining moment for how the federal government operates and serves the public.”
According to the Office of Personnel Management, only about 22 percent of federal employees were permitted to work from home in 2018. In the wake of the pandemic, almost three-fourths of the federal workforce is working remotely today and most are uncomfortable returning to the workplace according to Federal News Network research.
“However, our survey reveals there are challenges for federal leaders and managers in a virtual work environment,” Jezior explained. “We found that there are two key improvement areas for telework to be sustainable over the long-run: managing employee performance in a virtual environment and building a sense of community and connection.”
“Prior to COVID-19, there was a sense that employees had to be physically present to accomplish their work,” said David Witkowski, Eagle Hill’s public service industry lead. “Clearly, that isn’t the case. Now, agencies have an unexpected opportunity to fundamentally shift their telework strategy. The pandemic is the disruptor that can pave the way for new processes and approaches that span technology, performance management, and learning and development.”
Key findings of the 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting Federal Telework Survey include:
- Overwhelmingly, federal employees who telework have a positive sentiment about teleworking. Seventy-nine percent feel more dedicated to achieving their agency’s mission while teleworking and 76 percent are more dedicated to meeting expectations of their role. Seventy percent say they are more productive.
- Federal employees who telework are confident in their agencies’ ability to support telework. Eighty-eight percent of federal employees who telework say their agencies have the resources to support telework, and nearly three-fourths say they believe their agency will allow more teleworking after COVID-19.
- The federal workforce has high trust when it comes to remote work. Eighty-five percent say their agencies trust them to telework, and 81 percent say their supervisor trusts them to get their work done while teleworking. About half of supervisors say they have a higher degree of trust in their employees’ ability to work remotely as a result of COVID-19.
- There is a need for more day-to-day clarity when working remotely. Forty-seven percent of federal employees who telework say they have a clear idea of what success looks like in their current role. Only 23 percent say they are receiving coaching and mentoring while teleworking.
Pragmatic steps that federal leaders and managers can take to strengthen federal teleworking include:
- Getting back to performance fundamentals by clearly defining shared outcome at the team level while also drilling down on individual goals.
- Creating a positive virtual work environment by setting team norms for working together virtually, ensuring virtual meetings are inclusive, and embracing optimism despite uncertainty.
- Strengthening interpersonal relationships by understanding the unique circumstances of each team member, regularly checking in on employees’ personal well-being and embracing your own vulnerabilities.
The 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting Federal Telework Survey was conducted online by Luminas LLC in June 2020 and included 509 respondents from a random sample of federal employees across the U.S. The survey polled respondents on teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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