67% of federal employees say return to office lowers productivity

by Time Doctor
Federal employees return to office

The Biden administration began advocating for more regular, “meaningful” in-person work at federal agencies in April 2023. The vast telework methods that were implemented during the epidemic were significantly altered by this instruction. But after a year of this change, federal employees are starting to wonder more and more about the reasoning behind it, which is igniting discussions about whether it is really necessary or beneficial return to office settings.

Survey insights: Federal employees’ sentiments on return-to-office

The Federal News Network conducted an extensive survey in the beginning of April 2024 to find out more about the thoughts of federal employees regarding the most recent orders to return to office. The survey, which had 6,338 respondents, revealed that a significant portion of employees were confused and unhappy.

Distribution of work models

  • Remote work continuation: Approximately 30% of respondents are still working entirely remotely.
  • Hybrid work arrangements: The majority, 64%, are working on a hybrid schedule, balancing in-office and remote work.
  • Full in-person work: A small fraction, 6%, have returned to full in-person work schedules.

Communication gaps

A critical issue highlighted by the survey is the lack of clear communication from senior leadership about the objectives of returning to the office:

  • Unclear objectives: Over 50% of federal employees reported that the goals of returning to the office were not clearly communicated by their agency’s senior leadership.
  • Strong disagreement: More than a third of the respondents strongly disagreed with the explanations provided, if any were given.
Mid-Blog Banner Return to work policy

Analyzing the productivity debate

Contrary to the administration’s expectations that in-person work would enhance productivity and collaboration, the survey responses suggest otherwise:

  • Reduced productivity: A significant 67% of the surveyed employees believe that working from the office has actually decreased their productivity.
  • Disconnect in experiences: Many employees noted a mismatch between the perceived benefits of in-office work touted by leadership and their actual experiences, which continue to favor the flexibility and effectiveness of teleworking.

The reality of core collaboration days

Introduced as a strategy to enhance in-person collaboration, “core collaboration days” have not met expectations:

  • Limited impact: Survey responses were overwhelmingly neutral or negative on the effectiveness of these days in improving work-related tasks and interpersonal relationships.
  • Counterproductive outcomes: Some employees reported that these days led to more socializing and less productive work, contributing to dissatisfaction and questioning the utility of such mandates.

Leadership and trust: A growing rift

The return-to-office strategy has also impacted federal employees’ perceptions of their leadership:

  • Growing negativity: Roughly 47% of respondents now have a more negative view of their agency’s senior leaders following the return-to-office announcements.
  • Supervisor views less affected: While views on immediate supervisors were less negatively impacted, there is still a notable 22% who felt more negatively towards their direct managers.


The results of the study point to a substantial discrepancy between the needs and experiences of the employees and the return-to-office policies of the federal leadership. The results advocate for greater flexibility, improved communication, and a greater comprehension of the various demands of the workforce, calling for a reevaluation of existing policies.

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