Flexible Remote Work Policies Can Help Federal Agencies Attract and Retain Top Talent

The Telework Reform Act, introduced by two Senators, has the potential to significantly improve the ability of agencies to recruit and hire qualified candidates for remote work positions. Although there is an emphasis on hiring the spouses of service members and law enforcement officials for remote work (the 2022 Federal Employment Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) study by OPM showed that only 1% of the Federal workforce is the spouse of a current active-duty service member of the U.S. Armed Forces), it would charge Federal agencies with figuring out a range of criteria for supporting remote work more broadly, including on the cost savings and productivity fronts. In a 2022 report of the findings from a federal study conducted by Qualtrics of more than 1,000 students and recent graduates (Improving early career recruitment for federal jobs, October 2022) according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 85,000 job openings across the federal government, and the public sector has difficulty in attracting top talent and younger workers. There are many advantages for federal agencies if the Telework Reform Act is passed, but also if agencies transform their telework policies and infrastructure to allow for more remote and hybrid work. Here are a few of the many benefits: While the bill is still not finalized, and in fact has already been amended by the Senate to require even greater reporting and oversight of offsite work (Fedweek, 11/7/23), it is fair to say that telework is here to stay and will likely grow. However, the level of remote work in the Federal Government is still low Рonly 14% of respondents to the FEVS study report said they have an approved remote work or teleworking schedule. Not every potential employee will want or need workplace flexibilities like hybrid or remote work, nor will every federal job be able to support remote work. But when agencies are inflexible in their overarching workplace policies, they hamper their ability to attract and retain the talent needed today and for the future. Federal agencies need greater flexibility, especially in technology, law enforcement and finance roles, in offering remote options where the competition with the private sector for the best talent is significant. Agency leaders need to take steps now to attract and retain qualified candidates and develop a diverse workforce, including these actions: