The Office of Personnel Management is warning federal employees about trying to get to work this week. OPM Director Michael Rigas writes to agencies that they should let employees work remotely whenever possible.
This will be no problem for many agencies, including the General Services Administration, that have teleworked successfully during the pandemic. “We are in full telework posture,” said Traci DiMartini, Chief Human Capital Officer at GSA. “We have a wonderful emergency management team also at GSA,” she added.
DiMartini advised agencies who may not have had as much success teleworking to “communicate, communicate, communicate” in preparation for next week. “If agencies are worried or have issues, they should reach out to those of us that have pretty much mastered it at this point,” she said.
DiMartini said GSA will onboard all incoming political employees virtually. “We understand that during this time of COVID, safety of our workforce is the first thing we are focused on, and we’ve demonstrated that we can do it.” She said GSA onboarded 841 people virtually across the country from March through December of 2020.
DiMartini came to GSA in September from the Peace Corps, so she has firsthand experience with virtual onboarding. She said her onboarding experience was very positive. “It helps that GSA has a rockstar CIO office. We have state-of-the-art technology and we embrace the latest,” she said.
Overall, GSA is looking at the potential for a flexible work environment as an opportunity to reinvent federal work, DiMartini explained. “If we take this opportunity to figure out how we can have people continue to work at home beyond COVID and when the pandemic ends, we’re going to open up a whole new world of how we recruit people and what compensation levels might look like … and also maybe break down some silos,” she said.
DiMartini said employees’ work environment preferences vary within GSA, stating that “some people are dying to come back in to the office … and some people are enjoying working from home.” She said the agency is going to pilot a return to facilities program to let employees choose where they work, with input from their supervisors and management. The potential benefits could be to save money and increase efficiency while continuing to deliver high-valued services.