Most EPA Employees Really Don’t Want To Show Back Up To The Office, Survey Finds

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More than 80% of surveyed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees said that they would experience “personal hardships” if the agency changes its remote work policies to align more with the White House’s push to get government employees back into their offices, E&E News reported.

The survey results indicate that there is a significant disconnect between rank-and-file EPA employees and senior Biden administration officials over the White House’s return-to-office push for federal employees who have enjoyed expanded remote work policies since the pandemic. About 66% of the survey’s respondents said that they would consider leaving the agency if remote work flexibility diminished, and more than 65% of polled EPA employees said that reductions to remote work would negatively impact “diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” according to a summary of the survey’s results.

Federal agencies are under pressure from the White House and House Republicans to get their employees back into their offices and boost productivity now that the pandemic is effectively over. White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients sent a July memo to agency heads requesting that they prepare to “aggressively execute” plans to decrease work-from-home flexibilities, while House Republicans have passed several bills that would force agencies to revert to pre-pandemic telework policies, according to E&E News. (RELATED: EPA Bureaucrats Can Rake In Six-Figure Salaries While Mostly Working From Home, Report Finds)

The average EPA employee took home a salary of almost $125,000 in fiscal year 2022, with 77% of the agency’s staff making at least $100,000 that year, according to a July report by Open The Books. Alongside an increased budget, the agency is poised to receive more than $100 billion in taxpayer funds over the coming years from the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law combined, and the EPA is seeking to hire almost 2,000 new employees in a pending recruiting blitz, according to E&E News.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a union which represents over 7,000 EPA employees, requested that the EPA maintain the agency’s generous remote work policies as recently as April, according to its website. The union issued that particular demand around six months after President Joe Biden stated that “the pandemic is over” in September 2022.

Despite any possible tension about the status of remote work, the EPA has pushed out numerous recent proposals  that could raise prices for American consumers and hamper industry, such as tailpipe emissions standards proposed in April that would essentially require auto manufacturers to have their new light-duty vehicle fleets be 67% electric vehicles by model year 2032.

A decrease in remote work could also lead to departures of some senior EPA officials and managers, according to E&E News.

“The honeymoon will end if we get a Republican president because all of this will come to an end,” one anonymous EPA employee told E&E News. “Or at least they will attempt to end it.”

The EPA does not appear to be the only agency with employees taking advantage of loose remote work policies, as at least 17 federal agencies were using less than 25% of their available space earlier in 2023, according to a July report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“EPA will continue to follow (Office of Management and Budget) guidance, listen to employee feedback and monitor performance metrics as the Agency continues to prioritize its mission to safeguard human health and the environment,” EPA Deputy Press Secretary Khanya Brann told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Representatives for the White House and AFGE did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

This article has been updated with comment from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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