The Office of Personnel Management encouraged other federal agencies to leverage programs that help employees maintain balance between their home and work life, as part of the 2019 National Work and Family Month.

“OPM identified work-life supports as one of the major drivers of employee engagement. When employees know their overall well-being is highly valued by their employer, they are more likely to feel and exhibit a sense of commitment to the organization,” OPM Director Dale Cabaniss wrote in an Oct. 8 memo to heads of agencies.

“Work-life supports may range from promoting workplace flexibilities that allow employees to balance work and other life responsibilities, to offering back-up dependent care services which may help ease caregiving burdens and allow employees to remain focused.”

Cabaniss announced in the memo that OPM would be producing resources to help agencies support nursing employees, research on employee dependent care needs, a training course for employee assistance programs coordinators and a webinar discussing telework and reasonable accommodations in 2020.

The agency also plans to update its work-life toolkit for managers.

But OPM’s announcement comes amidst several agencies pushing for cuts to some of their work-life programs, such as provisions in collective bargaining agreements that would significantly cut telework — even for those employees that are already approved for such accommodations — and increasing supervisory discretion over employee telework.

According to the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint survey, about 43 percent of federal employees telework to some degree, though nearly half of those only do so on a once per month or infrequent basis. Meanwhile, 13 percent of respondents said that they do not telework because they lack approval, despite working in a position that would allow for it.

Overall, 62 percent of respondents stated that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their telework offerings.

OPM’s 2018 work-life survey found that employees that engage in programs such as telework and agency wellness programs were approximately 75 percent more likely to report that they had exceeded standards on their last performance appraisal. Such employees were also more likely to report that they were satisfied with their jobs and that they intended to stay with their agency.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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