OPM officials sent a memo Wednesday reminding agency heads of its data reporting requirements on telework, while also offering some additional tips for compliance.

OPM officials sent a memo Wednesday reminding agency heads of its data reporting requirements on telework, while also offering some additional tips for compliance. SEAN GLADWELL / GETTY IMAGES

OPM reminds agencies of new telework reporting requirements

As agencies prep to increase in-person work this fall, the federal government’s HR agency is calling on officials to collect better data on telework and remote work usage in their workplaces.

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday reminded federal agencies of recent changes to how to monitor and collect data on the usage of workplace flexibilities like telework and remote work, as the Biden administration prepares to increase in-person work across the federal government this fall.

Last spring, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance to agencies instructing them to “increase meaningful in-person work” and to develop a new system to monitor their organizational health and performance. And White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients in August called on agencies to “aggressively” reduce telework this fall, calling in-person work “critical” to workplace culture.

Those transmissions followed a series of updates to OPM’s data requirements related to telework and remote work, issued last March, which included tracking instances in which employees log into their work remotely, as well as how many hours federal workers spend on telework.

OPM Director Kiran Ahuja on Wednesday sent a memo to agency heads reminding them of these new requirements and offering some additional tips to help them comply. Beginning last month, agencies are now required to report to OPM on the number of remote work and telework agreements they have signed with employees.

Additionally, agency supervisors and managers should periodically review employees’ eligibility to participate in telework as it is recorded in their HR or time and attendance software to ensure its accuracy, as well as to ensure that only those eligible to participate in the workplace flexibilities are actually doing so.

Agencies should also ensure that employees “diligently” record their time on telework, and that they do so using the correct codes—situational or routine—within their time and attendance software. And supervisors should verify the accuracy of that data when approving timesheets, as well as ensure that employees’ usage of telework aligns with their telework agreements.

“Workplace flexibilities like remote work and telework remain an important tool for agencies to deliver on mission and serve the American people,” Ahuja wrote. “Collecting accurate data on these flexibilities will allow for better human resource management and data-informed decision-making across the entire federal enterprise.”

Ahuja’s memo comes amid renewed scrutiny of agencies’ telework practices by Republican lawmakers in Congress. Last month, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, claimed without evidence that federal workers were committing “fraud” by using telework as a way to inflate their locality pay, and the House Oversight and Accountability Committee hosted a hearing on telework and remote work where agency HR leaders defended their approach.

The House panel was set to hold a second hearing with witnesses from hearings who allegedly were not forthcoming about their telework practices in response to congressional inquiries, but it was postponed amid the threat of a government shutdown.