(WFXR) — It’s been one week since Virginia state employees had to return to the office, even though many had been working from home for years amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in May, Gov. Glenn Youngkin updated the Commonwealth’s telework policy for all state employees to start working in-person full-time by Tuesday, July 5, a change the governor’s office stressed would provide “options for and supports the use of telework where appropriate.”
For plenty of state employees, the benefits of working at home outweigh going into the workplace. Not being able to do that has caused hundreds of state employees — as well as other workforce members — to resign, bringing on even more concerns.
“It’s hard right now for a lot of people to find childcare here in central and southwest Virginia, so I think some people are having to take care of either children or older loved ones in the home,” explained Tim Saunders with Virginia Career Works in Lynchburg.
He tells WFXR News that the work-from-home option has been trending heavily over the past few days.
“On an average day, we can expect to see a post get 4,000 or 5,000 views,” Saunders said. “Yesterday, we posted a job that included a hybrid work-from-home option, so working from home part of the time, and that job ended up having, I think, about 22,000 views.”
The governor’s office stressed that having workers entirely in-person would “balance the demands of government services with the needs of public servants.”
A lobbyist for the Virginia Governmental Employees Association (VGEA), Dylan Bishop, says the new telework policy actually interferes with recruitment and retention.
“We’re struggling to not only to retain and recruit top-tier talent, but struggling to recruit and retain just bodies to fill positions,” said Bishop.
VGEA sent out a survey to its members, receiving more than 400 responses, which are summarized below:
One number of note from the VGEA survey is that approximately 46% of the state employees who answered said they had always been working from home.
According to Bishop, questions are rising about those who were never assigned to an office or were in an office that’s been downsized.
“What fate lies ahead of them? Does that mean that their employment is in jeopardy? Does that mean that they are exempted from this return-to-work policy?” Bishop asked. “We haven’t gotten a definitive answer about those cases yet.”
VGEA officials say they are continuing to advocate for government employees.