26 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Trump cuts back on remote working

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While more than a quarter of American private sector employees work remotely, a similar move by Public Sector workers has been stymied by the Government of President Donald Trump.

After a big push toward telework in the previous Administration of President Barack Obama, Mr Trump prefers the somewhat old-fashioned theory that having people in offices prevents the kind of slacking off that can happen when no one is watching.

The about-face began at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2018 after Secretary, Sonny Perdue was angry to discover that an employee he needed to meet was working from home.

In response, he slashed by half a program used by tens of thousands of employees.

The Education and Interior Departments and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as parts of Commerce and Health and Human Services Departments, soon followed.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, where telework is popular in the Benefits Division, is pushing for telework restrictions in contract talks.

The Social Security Administration abruptly cancelled a six-year pilot program for 12,000 operations employees in November, citing “increased wait times and unacceptable delays” to customer service.

Mr Trump’s war on telework represents a milestone in how his Administration is changing the culture of the Federal Government as it seeks more accountability from employees – and moves to weaken their unions.

Employees are chafing at their lost freedom, but the managers reining them in say that, in the long run, taxpayers benefit.

However, workplace experts say data on productivity is inconclusive.

Employees claim they are more productive at home and suspect the Administration of other motives.

Scaling back telework is “a subtle way of getting rid of old-timers,” says 69-year-old Uylaine Barringer (pictured in her home office).

Ms Barringer, a Compliance Assistance Coordinator for the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Program in Chicago made the decision to retire at the end of the month after her telework was cut back.

Washington, 13 January 2020

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