In fiscal 2017, in its annual report on telework in Congress, the Office of Personnel Management reported that more USDA employees are eligible for telework – 62,744 in 2017, up from 58,635 the previous year. Data for 2018 or 2019 are not yet available. “The other thing that was interesting was that we had an increase in the number of people applying for telework after changing policy. We had more people who were eligible for telework because of the rules of the hierarchy. We also had more people who signed up for more regular telework work than we did the policy change, so I think people saw that they had the opportunity to telework, and some people took advantage of those opportunities where they may not have grasped it before,” he said. For me, the ultimate way to tell if it works or not is to look at our key performance indicators, the things we evaluate ourselves, our strategic plan and annual performance goals, and say, “Are we filling them up?” If we don`t, it will be a red flag,” Bice said. We meet with them and continue to meet with them, so the fulfillment of our mission has not changed due to the change in telework policy. “Because of our diversity, in which we are all across the country, it means something else, even from one function to another,” he said. “We have offices in some of the hardest-hit areas on the West Coast. We were flexible enough to allow for several policy changes, even before the White House and the Office of Personnel Management had the direction of being more liberal in telework. We have actually looked at that on the basis of epidemics and what we have heard from those on the ground. We have authorized additional telework. AFGE proposed a number of provisions that the union said would facilitate the transition and encourage more employees to accept relocation, including the provision of incentives and one-year full-time telework, which would allow employees to continue working effectively while preparing to move to Kansas City. Although the department as a whole has significantly reduced its telework program to one day per week, Winch said some employees of science agencies continue to telework full-time under reasonable agreements. On Monday, the Human Resources Management Office asked agencies to allow their employees to use telework, alternative work schedules and other flexibilities during the summer subway closures, which are scheduled to take place from May 25 to September 8. “Because the Metro platform improvement project is time-limited, no changes to basic telework agreements are planned,” says the USDA Human Resources Office guidance document.

“The USDA Telework Directive remains in force and no changes are made to the USDA`s telework policy. The USDA Telework Directive provides for situations where telework is necessary, but these should be rare. For several years, the USDA telework program has been a model for other agencies. Forbes named the USDA one of the top 500 workplaces in 2015, in part because of its telework policy. In addition, over the past five years, the USDA has saved millions of dollars through telework. The Department of Agriculture was one of the first agencies to reduce the number of days an employee was able to telework. Peter Winch, special assistant to the national vice president of the American Government Employe, who has been negotiating on behalf of ERS and NIFA workers since the union formation vote earlier this year, said he had agreed with the department on the basic rules of negotiations and that the parties would meet next week to discuss concrete proposals.