Federal Remote Work: Policies, Trends, and Opportunities

Federal Remote Work: Policies, Trends, and Opportunities

Federal remote work has been a major change in the government sector, spurred by evolving global work dynamics. As federal agencies adapt to the changing times, remote work presents challenges and opportunities for employees and government contractors. 


Explore the latest trends in federal remote work, focusing on the policies, key challenges, and contracting opportunities.


The Rise of Remote Work in the U.S. Federal Government


A man working from home during the rise of remote work in the federal government
Photo by Jelena Zelen/ Shutterstock


Remote work refers to the practice of employees performing their job duties from a location other than the traditional office setting, typically from their homes. 


Like many other organizations, the U.S. federal government recognizes the potential of remote work as a viable option for its workforce. Federal remote workers use an array of technological and communication tools to collaborate with colleagues and fulfill their job requirements.


Benefits and Challenges of Federal Remote Work


Below are the benefits of remote work in the government:


  • Allows highly talented individuals to continue working for the agency regardless of their geographic location
  • Attracts highly skilled job seekers outside of the agency’s local area, filling crucial positions with top talent
  • Enables cost savings for agencies on transit subsidy benefits, locality pay, real estate, and other facility expenses
  • Boosts productivity and engagement among employees


Conversely, while remote work in the federal government offers numerous benefits, it is not without its difficulties. Listed below are the challenges associated with remote work.


  • Supervisors face challenges in performance management as they need to adapt various communication methods to ensure consistent and productive engagement in remote work environments.
  • More frequent communication between supervisors and employees is necessary for task and project updates.
  • The lack of consistent onsite collaboration results in a loss of social interaction and relationship-building.
  • Maintaining quality customer service, including accessibility, attentiveness, and availability, becomes challenging amid reduced on-site staffing.


Federal Remote Work Policy Guidelines


Regardless of where employees work, they are subject to the same federal human resource policies. It encompasses aspects such as pay, leave credits, work schedules, and performance management policies.


Below are the guidelines for developing effective remote work policies in federal settings.


  • Federal agency policies must have established policies for work schedules, requests for time off, and reporting of premium payments.
  • Policies need to address concerns for compensatory time off for travel and eligibility criteria for remote workers.
  • Remote work policies should outline severance pay eligibility and weather/emergency procedures.
  • Clear work schedules, working hours, and reporting procedures should be communicated to remote employees.
  • Travel and relocation benefits under the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) must be considered an option for remote workers.
  • Agencies should estimate costs for relocation and remote work arrangements before approval.


What are the Federal Laws on Remote Workers?


The following federal and state laws oversee remote work arrangements and provide fundamental protections for remote workers:



Telework in the U.S. Government


Telework, a form of remote work arrangement, has existed in the U.S. government as early as the 1990s. Telework, as defined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is a business practice wherein employees can perform work at an approved alternative location during regular paid hours. 


Telework has two general categories:


  • Routine Telework Employees work remotely on a regular schedule.
  • Situational Telework Employees work remotely for specific periods on a case-by-case basis.


Telework Legislations


The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which was pivotal in institutionalizing telework practices across various agencies, further solidified the telework approach.


In 2023, Senators James Lankford and Kyrsten Sinema introduced the Telework Reform Act to refine telework policies for federal employees. It seeks to establish clear definitions for telework and remote work, providing a framework for consistent implementation across government agencies.


Additionally, the act would mandate teleworking federal employees to report to their office at least twice every two weeks, promoting accountability and in-person collaboration.


Federal Remote Work and Telework: Current Trends and Debates


A young man working from home
Photo by Olia Danilevich/ Pexels


As the federal government proceeds with its initiative to bring employees back to office environments following the issuance of the return-to-office memo in April 2023, concerns emerge about the impact on employee retention and recruitment.


Public sector unions have consistently cautioned against the negative impacts of requiring employees to return to the office, echoing similar challenges faced by private companies that were among the first to enforce such policies. Initial assessments from companies mandating in-person work reveal higher-than-anticipated levels of employee attrition.


In addition, surveys across the federal workforce also show that many employees are seeking new opportunities because of the return-to-office mandates.


In response to calls for increased in-person work, agencies are urged to provide concrete plans and progress reports. However, concerns persist regarding the adequacy of available data and the impact of return-to-office mandates on agency performance and employee satisfaction.


Contracting Opportunities in Federal Remote Work and Telework


Remote work and telework initiatives within the federal government open up contracting opportunities for small businesses. These avenues span various sectors and services, addressing the evolving needs of remote workers.


Telework Infrastructure Government contracting companies can provide the necessary hardware, software, and network solutions to support federal remote work setups. Moreover, contractors can secure contracts for upgrading network infrastructure, VPNs, and network access platforms.


Collaboration Tools Federal remote work provides contractors opportunities to provide specialized tools for virtual meetings, file sharing, and team collaboration to enhance remote collaboration.


For instance, as telework became prevalent, particularly during the pandemic, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued guidance on the use of Zoom to accommodate the increasing reliance on remote work. This further illustrates the growing demand for remote collaboration tools, offering contractors opportunities to provide solutions for telework operations.


Cybersecurity Services Cybersecurity contracting companies can provide services such as penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and secure remote access solutions, which are all crucial in safeguarding remote work environments.

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Written by Annie Tyler

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