In opposition to the "Back to Work Act"
  1. United States
  2. Mass.
  3. Letter

In opposition to the "Back to Work Act"

To: Sen. Markey, Rep. Pressley, Sen. Warren

From: A constituent in Brighton, MA

May 14

I write to say that S.4266, the "Back to Work Act" introduced by Sens. Romney and Manchin to limit remote work for federal employees, is misguided and will harm the effectiveness of the federal government and thereby harm the American people. I am currently employed by the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), on a long-term detail from there to the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Information Security lead for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO). Given that I live with my family in Boston, I am also a fully remote employee. Prior to joining the federal workforce last year, I spent more than 30 years working in tech, much of it as a remote employee. Many of my coworkers at USDS and OCTO are remote. Many of them are also the best and brightest people I have had the honor to work with during my long career. And many of them have circumstances in their lives which would make it impossible for them to move to D.C. to continue working for the government. Hobbling the government's ability to employee remote workers would also hobble its ability to attract the best and brightest people to work for the American people in government. It is undeniably true that there are jobs which cannot be done effectively on a fully remote basis. However, which jobs are in this category is best decided by the people running the various agencies, not via a one-size-fits-all approach mandated by Congress. This kind of micro-management is not a necessary or appropriate role for Congress to take on. Government works best when it reflects the people it represents. This means bringing people into government from around the nation with different backgrounds and lived experiences. Prohibiting telework would return us to the status quo ante of the vast majority of non-location-based federal workers living in and around D.C., reducing diversity of all sorts in the federal workforce, to the detriment of all. The best companies and managers in the private sector know that "butts in seats" is a terrible strategy for measuring performance. Therefore, to the extent that the goal of minimizing telework is to ensure that federal employees are performing their jobs, such a policy would be a failure; it would be more about optics than about optimizing the productivity of the workforce. Finally, forcing people back to the office because so much federal office space is currently sitting empty is wagging the dog; if there is a lot of empty federal office space, the right fix is to divest the unneeded space. When the amount of federal office space is right-sized for the workforce that needs to work in an office, telework will actually save the government a huge amount of money in reduced facilities costs. I encourage you to oppose S.4266 and instead support enlightened, modern efforts to bring the federal workforce into the 21st century by recognizing that telework is the future for many roles and positions throughout government. Thank you.

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