Today Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks issued guidance on the reentry of Department of Defense employees to their normal workplaces as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic wanes.
The impact of COVID-19 continues to have a lasting effect not only on our country, but on the Department in the way we work to accomplish our mission. Whether working from home or remaining at the worksite, our workforce has repeatedly proven its tenacity, resiliency, and dedication.
“As we look at our reentry to the workplace, we can’t expect to return to ‘business as usual’,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks. “Throughout the pandemic we learned a lot about how we can embrace telework and flexible schedules to achieve new efficiencies in the workplace. We will continue to embrace successful practices to promote a more resilient and productive workforce that can attract new talent and retain our top performers.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, some DoD civilian employees have been on full-time telework. Other employees have had schedules that differ from their organization’s regular schedules, such as shift work, in order to maintain physical distancing. This updated guidance does not direct a “one size fits all” plan to return to the workplace, rather it directs supervisors to begin discussions with civilian employees in these categories to plan for a return to the workplace or arrange for working on an adjusted schedule. Specific reentry plans will be dependent on organizational needs, the Health Protection Condition framework, and force health protection guidance. Additionally, absent an urgent and compelling mission need, DoD components are required to provide 30-days advance notice in writing prior to recalling or adjusting DoD civilian employee work schedules for these categories of employees.
Prior to issuing this new direction, the Department conducted listening sessions to learn from the experiences of the Total Force. Participants expressed a desire to continue practices which promote a safe and healthy work environment, as well as a desire for leaders to reimagine the “future of work” and an inclusive culture regardless of worksite or status. As a result, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness is reviewing and incorporating flexibilities such as telework into the Department’s civilian employee human capital strategies and personnel policies.
“I encourage our components and supervisors to take this opportunity to review available workplace flexibilities they may wish to incorporate in the ‘future of work’,” said Deputy Secretary Hicks. “These last two years have not been easy, but our workforce has consistently risen to the challenge to achieve our mission requirements – we should seek to incorporate those lessons learned as we carry our workforce past this phase and into the future.”
You can read the Deputy Secretary’s memo and additional guidance for DoD’s workplace reentry plan here.