Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:02 p.m. ET to include comment from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The U.S. Department of Transportation will bring teleworking employees back to offices two days per week this winter, according to a top agency official.
The agency workforce would return on site in a phased approach of three days per biweekly pay period come September, bumping up to four days in December, according to the email sent to staff that was obtained by Federal Times.
“We now seek to establish an optimal long-term operating environment at DoT – one that continues leveraging workplace flexibilities for eligible positions while also promoting meaningful in-person work and collaboration,” said Philip McNamara, assistant secretary for administration in the email.
Reuters reported Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration, an office within DoT, will have a higher requirement for its employees. The agency confirmed to Federal Times on Friday that as of Oct. 9, the agency will increase in-office presence to at least three days per week.
The Transportation Department joins a growing number of federal agencies that are seeking to increase in-person work and align with the White House’s return-to-work policies. Lawmakers, too, have tried to hasten these efforts by tying in work mandates in 2024 funding bills and pressuring agency heads to report the numbers and locations of remote workers.
In late May, South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace criticized DoT for having a near-empty building even after the national pandemic emergency declaration ended a few weeks earlier.
Since the severity of the pandemic lessened, the White House Offices of Management and Budget and Personnel Management have encouraged agencies to maintain flexibility where possibly and review their pandemic-era work arrangements to determine the best way forward.
The agency is “not going back to 2019,” the DoT email said. The department will maintain flexible schedules and leave programs, though employees have said there’s a disconnect between saying that in the same email that announces telework rollbacks.
The agency says the change is consistent with what OMB laid out in its memo directing agencies to increase meaningful in-person work.
DoT employs 55,000 people.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.