November 28, 2023

Labor Department Employees Not Returning to In-Person Work

Long after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared over and the federal government mentioned federal staff would return to in-person work, authorities constructing occupancy knowledge reveals that the Department of Labor headquarters had so few staff return that every worker had a mean allocation of 1600 sq. toes of workplace area. That’s significantly bigger than the average Washington, D.C., residence.

The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project obtained 11 pages of paperwork in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for occupancy knowledge for U.S. Department of Labor workplace buildings. The paperwork reveal low occupancy charges and low day by day common utilization of the division’s headquarters constructing, the Frances Perkins Building. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s information and commentary outlet.)

In his 2022 State of the Union address, President Joe Biden acknowledged, “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people.”

The federal Office of Management and Budget additional directed companies in April 2023 to replace their present telework insurance policies and set up up to date plans to enhance the return of federal employees to the office post-pandemic, following the administration’s declaration that the pandemic was over in April.

Monthly averages for workers’ use of the Frances Perkins Building reveal an allocation of roughly 1600 sq. toes per particular person, primarily based on the day by day common of staff in attendance.

The General Services Administration, as of 2011, had established a federal benchmark of 190 usable sq. toes per particular person.

Even with all of this unused actual property, the division has sought an additional $109 million in appropriations from Congress for the fiscal yr 2023.

This underlying lack of utilization of Labor’s headquarters constructing raises questions concerning the division’s dedication to sound monetary administration—having averaged simply 1015 staff per day in particular person within the month of September. For the prior 5 months, from April via August, the common was 949 per day. Previous data of historical utilization rates from 1996-2000 show about 3,000-4,000 staff and contractors a day.

This correlates to latest reporting from the Government Accountability Office from July highlighting the low utilization of many federal headquarters buildings all through 2023. One telling fact from the report: “Seventeen of the 24 federal agencies in GAO’s review used an estimated average 25% or less of their headquarters buildings’ capacity in a three-week sample period across January, February, and March of 2023.”

The report additionally acknowledged, “Underutilized office space has financial and environmental costs. Federal agencies spend about $2 billion a year to operate and maintain federal office buildings regardless of the buildings’ utilization.”

Further, a General Services Administration report from July 2022 highlighted common day by day occupancy charges of simply 29% for GSA-administered buildings. GSA additional acknowledged in the identical report, that solely “40% [of federal agencies] are using their occupancy and financial data to inform [financial and other operational] decisions.”

Previous FOIA requests by Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project have highlighted that many companies should not in compliance with directives to get staff bodily again to work, haven’t up to date their telework insurance policies because the pandemic as directed, or just have failed to monitor constructing occupancy charges.

The Department of Labor additional confirmed that 100% of staff within the division’s Office of the Inspector General are lined by telework agreements as of this previous April. This is of explicit concern, as inspectors normal are tasked with oversight of their respective departments and companies, which requires in-person investigations, coordination, and bodily presence at company areas.

The Department of Labor’s congressional funds paperwork state that the division “promotes the welfare of workers, job seekers, and retirees by helping them improve their skills, find work, and get back on their feet after job loss, injury, or illness.” This mission assertion is way faraway from financial actuality, as even the division itself has not managed to get its personal staff bodily again to the workplace post-pandemic.

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