If federal agencies cut back on telework, half of government employees who responded to an Eagle Hill Consulting survey said they would consider finding a new job.

The research, published May 16, quantifies what many federal employees have vouched for anecdotally: remote work flexibilities make the job more satisfying and individuals more productive.

Government employees “don’t want in-person mandates because of concerns about work-life balance and commuting time,” said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, in a statement. “The research is clear that most government employees want a certain degree of in-person work, but they don’t like rigid rules on how they work.”

The White House revisited the topic of remote work last week, issuing guidance that set an ambiguous expectation for “meaningful in-person work” to increase post-pandemic. Instead of calling for mandatory returns to the office, the guidance tells agencies to leverage data to help them decide how work environments need to be changed, effectively leaving the door open for work flexibilities to continue. Until more firm rules come about, most federal employees say remote work flexibility decisions are made by their immediate supervisors, according to the survey.

About 45% of remote and hybrid government workers said an in-office mandate would decrease productivity and hasten attrition. Exacerbating turnover is a risk agencies are currently facing, depending on how many vacancies they have or how many retirements they’re expected to process in the coming years.

“Government leaders are on a tightrope when it comes to the new telework and organizational health guidance released by [OMB]” said Jezior.

Survey respondents also said that being in the office can be advantageous for certain tasks, like welcoming a new employee, training, performance reviews and starting a new project or getting a wayward project back on deadline.

Remote work is best suited for deep thinking, research and focus time, results show.

Survey respondents were split on whether it’s more productive to work a full-day in the office or a half-day.

A separate Eagle Hill report showed that civil servants tend to report higher rates of burnout than workers in the private sector.

The survey ran from April 27 to May 1 and included 10,013 employees from across country, including 511 federal, state, and local government workers.

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.

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