COVID-19: Teleworking

3/30/2020

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Overview

The COVID-19 outbreak is rapidly changing the workplace. As the race to containment continues, millions of Americans are moving their workspaces to their homes as states ask employers to offer flexible work arrangements, such as teleworking, and develop plans to ensure continuity in government.

State Action

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) invoked a mandatory telework policy for state employees under Level II of Maryland's Pandemic Flu and Other Infectious Diseases Attendance and Leave Policy​​. The policy covers all state agencies and stipulates that employees who are able to work from home do so at their regular rate of pay. 

New Jersey’s Civil Service Commission issued guidance on state employees after Governor Phil Murphy (D) made a State of Emergency Declaration authorizing state agencies and departments to adopt measures in response to COVID-19. The commission guidelines call for the review of continuity of operations plans (COOPs) by agency heads to determine the feasibility of telework for both essential and nonessential employees. The guidelines also allow for the implementation of mandatory telework policies at the discretion of department heads. 

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) announced guidance for the next 30 days related to the workplace, recommending employers leverage teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible. The guidance also asks employers to consider staggering work schedules, holding large meetings virtually and canceling all non-essential travel for employees. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) directed his Secretary of Administration to implement a phased transition to teleworking for state employees. The directive also stipulates that the Department of Human Resources Management work with the Virginia Department of Health’s Equity Workgroup to prioritize support for impacted state employees that may be unable to perform their duties from home, including janitorial, food, and grounds staff.

Federal Action

Although federal agencies are not required to practice teleworking, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 stipulates that all federal executive agencies have a telework policy in place. Under this act, each executive federal agency must designate a telework managing officer (TMO) to implement and oversee agency telework policies. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance to all agencies covered under the 2010 law, encouraging telework flexibility for high-risk populations as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance also called on agency heads to consult with local public health officials and the CDC in considering the expansion of telework flexibility to employees more broadly, including those impacted by school closures.

More information on COVID-19 related teleworking questions can be found under the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour FAQ page. 

More information on workplace best practices during the outbreak can be found in the World Health Organization's recent report on COVID-19.