White House Tells Federal Workers to Prepare to Return to Office

The White House ordered federal agencies on Monday to begin preparing to return workers to offices, telling them to align their coronavirus reopening plans with those of the states and municipalities where they’re located.

“In partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector, the federal government is actively planning to ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant,” Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought wrote in a memo distributed to the heads of federal departments and agencies.

“Agencies are encouraged to allow federal employees and contractors to return to the office in low-risk areas,” Vought wrote in the memo.

But the memo said to allow employees to work from home until state and local authorities begin reopening their economies under the three-phase plan the White House outlined last week.

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Managers should make decisions based on state and regional assessments of the risk of further coronavirus outbreaks, but also school and daycare closures as well as the availability of mass transit and parking, Vought’s memo said.

Under the reopening guidelines the White House issued, states can begin the first phase of returning to normal economic and social life after they record a decline in coronavirus cases for two weeks and determine that their hospitals are prepared for a potential rebound.

Federal agencies could then lift mandatory work-from-home requirements, but workers who are able to perform their duties remotely or are at higher risk of serious complications from the virus should remain home.

If the state or local area continues to see a decline in cases, federal agencies could lift telework requirements for everyone but the most vulnerable workers before eventually returning office operations to normal.

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