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Our Director Director's Blog

Workplace Flexibilities

Image of people and buildings representing worklife balance

Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been committed to promoting a workplace culture for the 21st century that will support the Federal Government’s ability to attract, empower, and retain a talented and productive workforce by expanding the use of workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. Among several requirements, the President directed OPM to educate agencies on the various workplace flexibilities and work-life resources available.

To support the President’s initiative, we are pleased to announce a new 90-minute online course called “Introduction to Leave, Work-Life, and Workplace Flexibilities” that is available at no cost through OPM’s HR University. Its goal is to provide Federal employees and managers with a comprehensive overview of flexible workplace benefits and how to access them. This new course is being introduced during National Women’s History Month (WHM). The theme of this year’s WHM is honoring women in public service and government. OPM works with agencies across government to help recruit, develop, and retain the talent they need - including women - to deliver on our missions for the American people.

Today, OPM and IMPACT, the agency’s women’s employee resource group, sponsored a program entitled “Federal Women Lead.” During this panel discussion, senior Federal women leaders shared their career journeys and talked about the importance work-life flexibilities have played in their success.

OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, who spent 29 years as a consultant and partner in the private sector before joining Federal service, recalled how she was one of the first consultants at that firm to work part time.

“Workplace flexibilities have been important to me in my career. My husband and I had demanding jobs when our children were born. I was a consultant at a private global management company, a job which involved long hours and considerable travel. Back then, working part time and other flexibilities to help balance work and family life were not in place in many workplaces, including mine. But I asked to shift to a part-time schedule, and the leadership in my office was willing to give it a try. It turned out to be good for me, for my firm, and our clients – and working part-time is now an option for others,” Cobert said.

Workplace flexibilities provide a benefit to both Federal employees and our customers – the American people. OPM’s course helps to promote a culture in which employees and managers are able to more effectively use the various workplace flexibilities and work-life programs available. Allowing employees to use these flexibilities improve agency productivity, employee engagement and provides better service for our customers.

Graphic for with photo of vegetables that reads: 2016 National Nutrition Month, Celebrating Healthy Eating

There’s no better time for Federal employees to focus on healthy eating goals than during National Nutrition Month. The Federal Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides nutrition advice and tips on how Americans can eat healthy while still enjoying food that meets their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences and that fit within their budget. Choosing nutritious foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and maintain a healthy body weight.

This month, you may see an increased focus on nutrition. Throughout the year workplaces across the Federal government encourage employees to make informed decisions about their food choices. To support Federal agencies in developing and maintaining effective nutrition programs, OPM hosted a webinar training that highlighted agency best practices. We also conducted a government-wide assessment of their workplace health and wellness programs called WellCheck, which helps agencies determine the effectiveness of their health and wellness programs.

OPM also supports and maintains the Federal Work-Life Community of Practice (CoP) which helps work-life coordinators learn from other Federal agencies, collaborate with colleagues across government, and take advantage of cost-saving opportunities.

Some examples of evidence-based strategies that agencies are implementing to support healthy eating include:

  • The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) "Cafe Wellness Tours," which gives employees the opportunity to identify better choices, sample healthy options, ask questions, and learn how to customize meals to meet their dietary needs. NIH also offers a variety of local options including: "Meatless Monday" specials; calorie labeling on digital menu boards, and identifying healthier menu choices with symbols. NIH's environmental supports for nutrition are one piece of their robust and comprehensive workplace health and wellness program.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) issues weekly nutrition tips through an opt-in employee listserv. It also provides lunch-time seminars on nutrition topics, such as understanding food labels. DOT continues to explore ways to strengthen its nutrition program and health awareness outreach by strategically partnering with its Employee Assistance Program, health clinic, fitness center, and external health services providers.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosts a series of in-person and virtual webinars that address the benefits of healthy eating. FEMA also partners with vendors to ensure healthful food and beverage options are available in snack machines. FEMA also encourages employees to make healthier choices available during meetings or team gatherings when food is served.

These efforts, and many others across the Federal government, support the Presidential Memorandum on Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs, the National Prevention Strategy, and the Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations.

For information about how to choose a healthy eating pattern and enjoyable diet, review the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Most importantly, we care about the health of Federal employees. Living a healthy lifestyle can help you be your best at home, work, and in your community. We hope you will take a few minutes to examine your eating habits this month and rejuvenate your health goals -- one bite at a time.

OPM today released the complete Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results for 2015. The report contains the scores for the three major indices – employee engagement, overall job satisfaction, and workplace inclusion – plus lots of supporting detail from the survey and the trend lines for individual agencies over the past few years.

The report provides a first look at this year’s scores for the New IQ, which is a measure of employees’ sense of inclusion in their workplaces – meaning how fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowering they perceive their workplaces to be. The New IQ score rose by 1 percent government-wide to 57 percent. That small but statistically meaningful increase is important because we know that employees who feel a strong sense of inclusion are better performers on the job and contribute more of their talents to the vital public service missions of their agencies.

The New IQ increase also tracks the improvement we saw in the employee engagement and global job satisfaction indices in two earlier releases of the FEVS results in recent weeks. Both engagement and global satisfaction rose by 1 percentage point over 2014, to 64 percent and 60 percent, respectively. The Administration has made improving the government’s workplace culture a priority, and the trend lines reflect that.

When I dove into the full report, I was especially gratified by the progress made by individual agencies. Agency leaders and managers really can make a difference when they use OPM’s data to make meaningful changes that improve work environments. For example, since last year, 30 of the 37 large departments and agencies made gains in their scores measuring global job satisfaction, which includes how satisfied employees are with their jobs, their pay, and their organizations. (OPM recently highlighted the success of one large agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in boosting its scores.)

It’s clear that some agencies truly excelled in their internal efforts. One small agency, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, made double-digit gains in all three indices. Its engagement score went up by 14 percentage points, its global job satisfaction score by 17 points, and its workplace inclusion index by 12 points.

We asked our colleagues at the board how they did it. They credit better communication, employee recognition programs and greater focus on relationships with senior leaders. Agency managers increased the regularity of staff and all-agency meetings, ensuring that employees got relevant information faster. They also created many opportunities for employees to get together to discuss topics of interest, ranging from pay and performance to dress code guidelines. These events are good opportunities to not only collect valuable employee feedback, but to foster collegiality and closer working relationships. The reaction from employees to these initiatives was overwhelmingly positive and the agency plans to expand the programs.

Finally, I am encouraged by the government-wide results that demonstrate how important our work-life programs are to employees. In 2015, satisfaction with telework increased to 78 percent, up 1 percent from last year. The growth of telework across government continues, and I encourage every agency to consider it as a vital workforce tool. Employees are also just as, if not more, satisfied than last year with their employee assistance programs, alternative work schedules, and health and wellness programs.

All of this is not to say our work is done.  There are several areas where agencies continue to focus on making improvements. For example, scores for senior leaders have rebounded somewhat (up 1 percentage point) but still have a ways to go. And employees in a mission critical occupation – IT specialists – post more negative responses on questions related to recruitment, retention and development than employees in other occupations.

Agencies now have senior accountable officials who have been tasked with increasing employee engagement by customizing programs to an agency’s needs and by working closely with the leadership. I know that this, coupled with the focused efforts of leaders and managers throughout government, will help us keep our momentum going.

I want to send a special thanks to every employee who gave feedback in this year’s survey. Their willingness to share their thoughts and concerns is the starting point for change and for an evolution that keeps us moving in the right direction. Federal employees and the public can now explore the 2015 FEVS on their own with OPM’s terrific digital resource,

This is the third in a series of infographics highlighting results from the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).   The infographic positions the FEVS as a powerful tool for agencies and continues the metaphor of a classic wrench.   Title:  Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 2015 FEVS  Top section features, the new online visualization tool for exploring FEVS data, with the following features and capabilities:  •	Now accessible to all Federal employees and the public •	Explore engagement and global satisfaction scores •	See trends from 2010 to 2015  The primary visual is a combination padlock. Supporting visuals are small examples of chart and graph styles.   Middle section: Positive Trends in 2015 Decorative graphic composed of simplified, stylized versions of data visuals such as pie charts, line and bar graphs. This area also contains government-wide data points from the 2015 results:  •	The Response Rate increased to 50% •	75% of responses more positive than last year •	Gov-wide Engagement increased to 64% •	Global Satisfaction increased to 60% •	Gov-wide New IQ, Inclusion Quotient, increased to 57%  Bottom section is a visual of interconnected gears titled  

In his memorandum for modernizing Federal leave, the President wrote, “Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home.  Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

This week, as President Obama continues his conversations with working families across the country, OPM is proud to release a new online handbook that gives Federal employees the information they need to take advantage of the government’s many leave policies related to having a baby, adopting, or becoming foster parents.

Our Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care provides scenarios and tips to give employees realistic and specific examples about how these policies can and should be applied. It was developed with the help of representatives from more than 40 Federal agencies, and it is an important milestone in achieving the President’s vision for Federal working families.

Federal employees will be familiar with many of our leave policies. New mothers and fathers may take at least six to eight weeks of sick leave, followed by additional time to bond with their child through annual leave or the Family Medical Leave Act. The FMLA guarantees that Federal employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a year of the birth or adoption of a child so that new parents can have extra time with their families. I’m also proud that our government recognizes the same needs for adoptive parents, foster families, and same-sex couples.  

Our handbook also provides information about less well-known options. For example, employees can use FMLA intermittently – say, one day a week for 12 months – rather than using 12 weeks all at once. Some offices are able to offer adjusted work schedules, with flexible start and end times. For families who need some extra time at home, the perfect solution may be to switch to a part-time schedule.

The handbook shares explanations of all of these types of workplace flexibilities, and more. It has definitions and details about each type of leave, and it also has specific examples of how a Federal worker might combine different types of leave in a way that makes the most sense for his or her family. Our goal is to make our policies and regulations are as clear -- and flexible -- as possible for every employee and his or her supervisor.

To attract and retain a talented, engaged, and productive workforce, the Federal Government must ensure that employees are provided every opportunity to use workplace flexibilities that will enable them to thrive both at work and at home. We hope that this handbook will help move us toward our goal of fully supporting and empowering working parents in their roles both as Federal employees and parents.

Logo for Workplace Flexibilities Handbook for Working Families

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight OPM’s commitment to ensuring that all women -- and men -- are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.

In January, the President signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.  It directs agencies to advance Federal workers up to six weeks paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the President also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide Federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

The President’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for Federal employees and their managers to fully understand our policies related to family life events. We do not want women to feel that they must choose between their responsibilities to their family and their obligations to their careers.

To develop the handbook, we are partnering with Federal agencies to gather information on existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. OPM is asking agency leave experts to identify common questions and misconceptions. This summer, we will analyze the data we receive and send a report to the President. This document will describe best practices, barriers, and limitations in achieving work-life balance. It also will suggest possible solutions to roadblocks that working families encounter.

OPM has long had in place policies that make it easier for women to meet their full career potential. We’ve created flexible work schedules, expanded sick leave to include caring for family members who are ill, developed telework policies, and come closer to eliminating the gender pay gap.

Sensible workplace polices like these are an integral part of OPM’s Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion – or REDI – roadmap. REDI provides agencies with the tools to attract, hire, promote, and retain top talent for the Federal government and build a model workforce now, and the future.

Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory. The women who have come before us have set an incredible example of dedicated Federal service. We hope to honor their contributions by doing all that we can to meet the needs of women today.

Director Archuleta meets with women in Tampa, Florida.

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