Employees gave their agency very high marks but asked for clarity about essential onsite work and use of personal IT equipment.
The Government Publishing Office is doing so well with its COVID-19 telework response that employees think there should be more work-from-home opportunities once the crisis has passed, according to employee surveys.
Two surveys issued in August by the GPO Inspector General Office show employees have high praise for agency leadership and availability of IT resources. But the responses also show employees are confused about when and why they need to be physically at the office and concerned for their safety at and on their way to work.
The office sent two surveys to GPO’s 1,600 employees and garnered 403 responses—a 25% response rate that was deemed “statistically significant” with a 4-point margin of error for each question.
“On the surface it appears that a significant amount of employees do not feel safe working onsite,” Inspector General Michael Leary wrote in a report breaking down the results of the surveys. “However, after reviewing the survey comments, employees simply felt safer working from home and not having to commute.”
While some 30% of employees told the IG they did not feel safe working onsite at GPO facilities, the surveys showed employees were “most satisfied” with the agency’s safety measures. The report squares this disconnect by acknowledging that many of the factors making employees feel unsafe are “outside of GPO’s control.”
The IG further broke down these results by identifying trends in the written comments from respondents:
- In 47% of the comments, employees simply felt safer working from home.
- In 27% of the comments, employees felt safe as long as the GPO instituted safety protocols were followed—e.g., mandatory mask use, social distancing and temperature checks.
- Several comments noted that rotating shifts could minimize the use of public transportation thus further alleviating employee fears.
Nearly 60% of employees said they felt protected under the current GPO safety protocols, with 22% stating “that the current safety protocols need improvement and/or more enforcement, such as increased access to gloves, more sanitizing stations and more N95 masks,” the report states.
On the technological front, 91% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the IT resources provided to support mass teleworking, including similar numbers for supervisors and non-supervisors.
For most supervisors—61%—the biggest IT priority was ensuring employees had access to GPO-issued laptops and a strong internet connection that can support secure access to GPO internal networks. Thirteen percent of supervisors also said they need a GPO-issued iPhone to properly do their work.
Sixteen percent of supervisors also said they wanted to use their home printers for official agency business, a big no-no from a security standpoint, as printers are often less secure than other devices and can be used as an access point for attackers trying to breach GPO networks.
“However, there are times when the workforce feels it is necessary,” according to the survey responses, “As a result, employees would like GPO to explore at home printing options.”
Perhaps more impressively, 93% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with GPO Director Hugh Halpern’s communications to staff, which are issued weekly and are “very candid with the information” delivered, according to the IG.
That said, some employees—about 28%—wanted more information from their supervisors about which tasks truly required a physical presence in the office. Similarly, 25% of employees who said they were required to be at a physical GPO location said “they did not need to be physically present or were unsure if they needed to be physically present when onsite.”
Overall, employee satisfaction with leadership’s communications and available IT resources are leading to calls among employees to increase teleworking opportunities after the pandemic has passed.
While the responses were generally positive, the IG offered a few recommendations for the agency to improve:
- Continue to reinforce the face mask policy and emphasize enforcement.
- Provide greater transparency into how GPO sanitizes workspaces.
- Ensure supervisors communicate which tasks are mission essential and require being onsite.
- Improve the location of hand sanitizer stations and ensure they are functional.