update: governor yanked telework for state employees and my office is in chaos

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and for the rest of the year I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose office was in chaos after the governor yanked telework for state employees? Here’s the update.

Soon after my letter posted and there was related press coverage, two things happened. The first was that Governor Youngkin’s administration backed way, way off the enforcement of the new telework policy with only my agency. We heard through official channels, but nothing in email, that all employees and supervisors were to “use their best judgment” when July 5 rolled around and to “be flexible and use common sense.” So if an employee struggled to abide by the new telework agreement, that was okay. My friends in multiple other agencies said this was NOT the case in their offices. The second thing is that the Governor’s staff were cracking down on leaks, specifically this one. It’s no a secret that Youngkin decided to run for president soon after he became Governor, and he has been laying the foundation for that since he took office. Leaks are considered a fireable offense so while the Youngkin staff were nice in meetings, they were privately trying to find out who contacted you and other media outlets. They chatted with multiple friends of mine across different agencies, asking specific questions and names of potential leakers.

July 5 came and went with no fuss. You couldn’t tell the difference between the previous week and start of Youngkin’s new telework agreement.

Regarding the ADA accommodations, there was a lot of intense press scrutiny so the Youngkin administration backed off that matter too. One minute our ADA agreements were being scrutinized, and the next we weren’t required to show or do anything beyond what we had already done. I haven’t heard anything about the ADA since I wrote you.

Regarding the office space challenges, I did what you said. I drafted an email that outlined all the resources my staff required to return to the office. I never heard back, and my agency head hasn’t brought up the subject since the negative press coverage. I consider that a closed matter.

The most concerning detail is that we learned all the telework agreements were going to be printed and signed by hand by the Governor’s Chief of Staff. We asked multiple times about who was going to print them, where this information was going to be stored, and how long the Youngkin administration had to retain this information per FOIA. To this day, none of us got any sort of response. I’m still very concerned that all of my personal health information, which I gave under duress, is sitting in a random office or unlocked storage room somewhere where anyone can read it, copy it, etc. Quite frankly, I’m afraid to ask.

Given the hoopla around requiring a signed telework agreement on July 5, multiple agency employees and a few of my direct reports never got theirs back. Technically, those people are supposed to be working Monday-Friday, full-time in the office, but I decided to honor my direct reports’ telework agreements as if they’d been signed by the Governor’s office. I didn’t want the people on my staff who didn’t have signed agreements being resentful of the others who did. I assumed my decision would fall under the “use your best judgment” directive the Youngkin administration gave us.

While this update may seem like telework screeched to a halt, things are ramping up again. After seeing several empty cubes and offices in our space, high-level managers above me are now insisting that people are not adhering to their telework agreements so anyone who is out of compliance will face official disciplinary action.

Finally, a number of high-level, long-time people quit for a variety of reasons, including the new telework policy rollout and the Governor’s use of state agencies for his presidential ambitions. (We don’t do politics at my agency. One of my coworker’s official government email address is now on multiple GOP campaign mailing lists, and they are furious because they only signed up for official press releases.) I love what I do, and I wanted to retire here, but I’m nearing my breaking point. If I’m forced to participate in ratting out my direct reports over their telework agreements, I don’t know what I’ll do.

I wish I had a better update. Your advice and reader comments were awesome though!

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Disappointing but not surprising. (Which sums up how I feel about the state of things in general.) Hugs, OP. I hope things work out for you and your team.

    1. Pants*

      Also how I feel about the state of things. Politicians are very much “do what I say, not what I do,” particularly a large set of them. Ahem. I can’t help but hope that leaks continue. It seems like that’s the only way any accountability ever happens, even in a minor capacity.

      I swear, we need to just shake the etch-a-sketch and start over.

  2. ChemistryChick*

    OP, as a fellow Virginian, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this mess. Youngkin gives zero fracks about anyone but himself and it shows.

    Hoping you can find a solution you feel good about.

    1. Pam*

      Yeah, this shows in a bunch of his policies. He doesn’t think about how it will impact real people, only how it will look in a press release.

      1. ChemistryChick*

        I don’t want to derail so this is all I’ll say about it, but the recent education hoopla has just…made me angry beyond words.

    2. Reg Commenter Anon Today*

      Another Virginian who feels exactly the same.

      OP, I have several friends and neighbors who are state employees and I want to echo what others are saying: your employees appreciate you

    3. 1qtkat*

      I too am a disgusted native Virginian and ex state agency employee who left just before the announcement for a fed job. Youngkin doesn’t care about the employees.

    4. Kevin Malone*

      Also Virginian here. He is awful in so many ways and spends time on things that aren’t important.
      Our school district still required masks and required a written opt-out policy which kept the level of masking very high. My kid’s historic school burned down last year and they were housed in a church in tiny rooms until another school could be prepared. This was last winter – my 8 year old came home very upset that Glenn had showed up without a mask (like read the room dude.) Him and his photographer….

    5. Fellow VA Citizen*

      Also, a fellow Virginian and I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Youngkin clearly only cares about his presidential ambitions and not actually any of the citizens he’s supposed to be serving.

    6. Former HR Professional*

      Yet another Virginian here who sympathizes with state worker who have to live with this fool of a governor for another three years. I find it very telling that a lot of his policy changes and declarations are met with widespread disagreement and restance but then get changed, dropped, or otherwise drop into a void.

    7. Another ticked-off Virginian*

      I feel fortunate to be a _former_ Virginia state employee. My IT job was totally do-able remotely and it would have been infuriating to be forced into the office so this rich businessman who fluked into becoming the governor can look presidential.

    8. Gracie*

      Yet another Virginian who previously worked for the state but is now a Fed. I am so sorry for all the state employees who are living with this mess, and we stand with you.

    9. Melonhead*

      As another fellow Virginian, let me say that Youngkin is a scourge. His entire governorship is one long presidential campaign. He is odious beyond belief. Just ugh.

  3. Pam*

    Thanks for the update. I live in Virginia. I’m upset that the governor would be so careless. This is good to know about. This is what drives good, knowledgeable workers out of government service. I really hope things get better!

  4. Alex*

    I work at an alphabet agency catching heat for its restrictive telework policy and we’ve lost several people because of it. While the nature of our mission means some positions can’t telework full time, it feels like entities that insist on all these restrictions are shooting themselves in the foot. I’m also convinced that these directives are coming from a handful of upper level individuals who have failed to consider all the ramifications like the ones the writer outlined above, because we all saw that telework is perfectly viable for many people and during the height of the pandemic we were able to make it work.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup. And we may tell those high-up people about the risks, which they can’t or refuse to understand, and they end up mystified about why so many great people are leaving.

      Can’t speak for other places, but where I work, it’s not unusual for the people who move up to be the ones who didn’t rock the boat / pretended there were no problems to look good to those above them. The people who’d rather have honest conversations and find real solutions – not so much.

      1. Alex*

        In all fairness I think it’s tough to distinguish people who toe the party line in public but disagree and discuss in private, from people who are total suck-ups. To lower-level people like me they look the same. I will say that there’s one person who’s notorious for not really knowing what’s going on, but has survived being the departmental head’s yes-man.

      2. kelly*

        I’m with Alex here. Most work places, both public and private sector, have people who publicly and with leadership pay lip service to the party line. In private and with trusted colleagues, they are far more critical and skeptical of the workplace policies. It’s a survival tactic because even though many have “open door”, anonymous feedback and transparency policies, it’s more for optics. The people that speak out get tagged as not being team players and suffer the consequences. It’s really telling in my public sector workplace how much of a decline there has been in the use of feedback methods because not much has changed.

        My workplace is starting discussions on a climate survey that was done last year. I was involved in some of the planning, and don’t feel comfortable with how our leadership is handling the results. It’s not going to be a productive discussion to discuss the results with supervisors and colleagues that are contributing to the toxic atmosphere. It’s also not great having people from better funded and staffed units in the same discussion as units barely staffed. It’s a waste of time for everyone involved.

    2. Claire*

      Our CEO was dragged kicking and screaming into even giving people a hybrid schedule, and that only happened after we’d lost so many people that we were facing being unable to honor contractual commitments, if not actually shutting down. (We’re a small-ish company.)

      Everyone told him that he was shooting the organization in the foot. It just didn’t matter to him. Even after two years of lockdown he was still unable to admit that working from home didn’t make people lazy freeloaders out to cheat the company out of their paychecks. He *still* thinks that, he just realizes that we have to offer hybrid work whether he likes it or not or we’ll go out of business.

  5. in the old dominion*

    Another Virginian here and whoof, I wish I found any of this surprising. I wonder how many folks will be left by the time there’s a replacement in 2025…

    1. CL*

      As a Virginia resident, I’m really glad governors can’t serve 2 consecutive terms. This has been really painful.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I might add that Youngkin was picked in a smoke-filled room without a primary, so he could pretend he wasn’t actually…what he turned out to be.

  6. Lana Kane*

    Making people come back to the office when there isn’t actually an office is such a good way to show your presidential chops.

    1. Lizzianna*

      Eh, there is a long and glorious history of men sitting in the White House and sabotaging career employees. There are number of previous Secretaries of my Department I wouldn’t put something like this past. To the right people, it looks like “standing up to the deep state” (and their unreasonable demands for a place to sit).

  7. SSVA*

    Fellow Virginia state worker here. I echo your sentiment that it’s not enforced from agency to agency. The telework policy also depends on your employee classification, so half of my agency does not fall under the rules, while I and others do. Thankfully our supervisor sees how it would impact us to be here all the time while the rest of the building is remote. So we’re being “flexible” and going remote when we want but keeping up appearances. But the building is still empty 90% of the time.

    I cannot confirm this, but I saw in Discord posts that the Youngkin administration was requested random badge swipe records for the state office buildings in the City, but that was back in July.

    1. Meri*

      I’ve been trying to focus on the results of the representative race, but my spouse works for the AK university system so… yeah with you there.

  8. Oldboy*

    If they’re hunting for the leaker, maybe delete the section of the letter where they talk about specific, trace-able evidence that might connect them to this letter?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      After this was submitted, I flagged the issue and the LW and I worked together together to delete things we thought could be identifying. I then removed some additional details this morning, beyond what the LW thought necessary, before this published just to be safe.

      1. my 8th name*

        I still think the middle paragraph about the email she put together about her team’s needs may be too specific to apply to all that many people, especially if they are actively looking!

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Thank you for your work to protect the “leaks.” It is really disturbing that it is necessary.

    2. Green great dragon*

      No idea if this was done here, but I often change small details if I want to be less identifiable – like gender of kids or colleagues or my exact working pattern. Nothing that would affect an answer. Maybe it is a colleague not her who’s had to provide information about a medical condition, maybe it’s a different family member who is vulnerable.

      And of course even if she didn’t, anyone looking for the leak can’t be sure she didn’t.

      (It is ridiculous that an agency’s working conditions are considered a secret that can be ‘leaked’.)

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Especially since it was about the rollout of a publicly announced telework policy that was on his governor’s news release pages. He announced it and he did that in his capacity as a publicly elected official. Everything we do in state agencies is subject to FOIA. What kind of “leak” is he worried about? What right to confidentiality does he think he has here?

        And yeah, I am another employee of a state agency in Virginia.

        1. Summer*

          It is truly disturbing that Youngkin’s staff are poring over things like this and hunting for leaks.

          In case they are reading this…Hey Youngkin camp!! If you are that obsessed with rooting out everyone who is opposed to your policies and that panicked about negative press, could that be a clue that what you are doing is flat out WRONG?!?! I can’t believe Virginians fell for his phony act and lies.

  9. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    Sorry that the LW is b caught up in this performative nonsense. Unfortunately, hatefulness is an essential part of the Repub. platform.

    If the administration is providing email addresses to a political party, that is likely illegal cronyism. Using state resources for political gain is generally illegal.

    1. Fed wishing to be Anon this time*

      I know at the Federal Level, the Hatch act is very much a thing – and my bosses rigorously enforce it (which I LOVE during election seasons, work is a complete break from the campaigning noise). But I’m not as sure about if it applies at the State Level.

      However, Federal Level campaigns I do believe are blocked from sending from State Government official email addresses.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, the email thing is concerning. Although I am a state employee and signed up for his announcement/press releases, since they often impact us, and I am happy to say that I have not received these emails from other groups. It may be because I signed up for them with my work email and they would not want to sell out the actual work emails of state employees to these groups.

      On the other hand, I get tons of political groups text messaging me, because whoever had my phone number before me (about a decade ago now) was clearly very politically active (I am in my own way, but not in the way that prompts constant political texts and emails, and the former phone number owner and I are on different sides of the political spectrum it seems. LOL). So I hope that employee manages to extricate themselves from the email harassment more efficiently than I have with the text messages!

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Well, I signed up for the governor’s announcement/press release emails because I, as another state employee like OP, find it useful. Much of the information in them is at least tangentially relevant to me as an employee for the state. But I used my work email address and I am guessing they do not sell those out (probably very illegal). So I wonder if the employee in question used a personal email, which is still really screwed up (the part about it being sold off, not the part about signing up). I have not had any of those emails from Republican groups, but again, it is my official work email and I sign up with that no matter which political party is in power.

  10. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Thanks for the update, OP. I’m glad it wasn’t as much of a clusterf*** as you anticipated. Just wanted to say that your efforts to be flexible for your team probably mean a lot to them. You seem like a very conscientious person and I’d bet it makes a real difference for them, even if you’re not able to do everything you’d like to.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      As an employee of one of OP’s sister agencies, I can say that the type of flexibility OP is showing is very appreciated by her employees. My management team has been wonderful and basically acts like everything is the same. I mean, we are truly exempt anyhow, so some days we may need to work longer hours, and our bosses let us come in late or leave early other days when we are not needed for longer times because that is how exempt employment is supposed to work. We do not need coverage as a regular thing. Knowing that our managers have our backs and will be flexible despite this insane policy and all the mess that comes with it is key to our choosing to remain in our jobs, which we love!

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Just to clarify, we are abiding by our telework policies. We just know that our bosses are flexible and willing to work with us.

  11. Prefer my pets*

    I’m so sorry. It’s absolutely maddening when the politicians decide to use civil servants as pawns.

    If you decide you need to get out, your state govt experience would transfer really well to federal govt and all the federal agencies I work in and have friends who work in (5 land management agencies across three Departments) are really struggling with recruitment the past 6 years in a number of specialties. It might be worth you (and your employees) doing some searches on usajobs . gov to start getting an idea what’s out there. A lot of positions, particularly things like HR and contracting, are pretty much all going fully-remote now.

    1. Shoebox*

      Yes! I work for a federal agency, located in Virginia. We are understaffed in several departments, and are grateful for every person who joins the team! We aren’t fully remote, as the nature of our jobs doesn’t allow that, but it’s really as flexible as possible. We can flex telework days, and telework if sick. usajobs can suck, but I think now is the best time to apply since there are so many agencies desperately looking for qualified people.

    2. 1qtkat*

      Totally agree! Mentioned in another comment, but I left state government last April for a federal job. My brief state experience (2 years) was I know what got me my fed job.

  12. Gigi*

    Welcome to government service in the 2020s, where a question about telework becomes a “leak.” If you have an HR policy you are ashamed for the press to know about, perhaps you should look at the HR policy. If they spent even half the time planning for the rollout and getting people the resources they need that they spend looking for the rogue leaker, the problem would be solved.

    Signed, Virginian who is disgusted that this is how the Youngkin administration is spending her tax dollars

  13. EPLawyer*

    The Governor is just bulling ahead on his “agenda.” Which shows he has no clue how to govern or how things get done. The fact it is backfiring spectacularly is lovely to watch. From a distance.

    OP, I know you love working for your state agency, but might be time to step aside for a couple years. He’s not going to get better and 2023 is going to be worse right up until the Iowa Caucuses when he is laughed out of the room.

  14. Calamity Janine*

    i think i am joining the chorus of people saying “i am disappointed, yet not surprised, in how the admin is handling this”. i imagine that if i actually lived in virginia, i would be simultaneously even more disappointed and even less surprised!

    it’s cold comfort, i know, but at least this is a situation where this is so far out of your hands that it is in no way your fault. you have done your absolute best. you have been a beacon of shining professionalism trying to enact good business practices. it’s just that the powers that be are going the direct opposite way.

    it’s not that you’re about to wash out of Starfleet; it’s that the Kobiyashi Maru simulation is designed for everyone to fail it, yknow?

    absolutely aggravating! but quite frankly when you’re job hunting (which i’m guessing you will be), everyone will be aware of this bs since it’s headlining political news, and i expect you’ll get a lot of sympathy instead of judgement. (heck, if i were a private corporation, this is the exact time i’d get out there to wine and dine those who wish to jump ship – it’s a perfect poaching opportunity!) you may find people ready and waiting for you to but fall back into their arms as soon as you make your escape.

    so, it’s not an ideal situation. at all. lord knows i wish you weren’t in it and that it wasn’t being created by Mr. My Political Party Is Here To Cause Problems On Purpose.

    but as far as such situations go, “escaping a known clusterflip” is probably the best way that a bad situation like this can happen to a person?

    …yea okay it’s very cold comfort, but still.

  15. idratherbequillting*

    I was a long-term State of Michigan employee. Our governor and civil service mandated office RTW a minimum of 2 days per week even though we successfully could do our jobs completely remote. I submitted 2 Reasonable Accommodation requests. Both were denied. So, I quit.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Sadly, I think this is what they want. It’s like some weird eugenics to get only the people they want in these jobs. So they can control things more.

      1. Mockingjay*

        And tout the employee departures as an ‘accomplishment’ during stump speeches about lean government.

        1. 1LFTW*

          And take advantage of understaffing and high turnover to engage in corruption. If the same people aren’t there for any length of time, there’s nobody to notice when things aren’t adding up the way they normally do.

      2. CheeryO*

        Yup. Becoming involved in state government hiring in the past couple years has been… enlightening. It suddenly makes a lot of sense why we have such a ridiculously homogeneous workforce in a field that generally has a lot of diversity. They want “passion” people who will ~fit in~ and not ask too many questions, since the answers are generally not great.

    2. Irish girl*

      My company got a new employee in my department due to just that reason and now she is a fully remote worker.

  16. CLC*

    I’ve worked in or closely adjacent to local, state, and federal government for most of my career. For some reason the general public seems to think government employees are lazy do-nothings who roll into work and collect taxpayer money while lounging around all day. Nothing could be further from the truth. The work is hard, the benefits aren’t nearly as good as everyone thinks, and the people who choose the public sector are smart and educated and dedicated to what they do. On top of everything, they are subjected to political forces mucking up or undoing all their work, and everything they do is public record and can be scrutinized by any nut job with a lot of free time on their hands. This sounds like a nightmare situation and I hope the LW is able to find a solution for themselves, whatever form that takes.

    1. CheeryO*

      Stereotypical lazy government employees definitely exist, but they’re the minority, in my experience. One of the best things about telework as a state employee is the ability to get a little distance from people who do nothing but drag everyone down.

      1. 1LFTW*


        I’ve worked in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. I’ve had lazy coworkers in all of them. I’ve had terrible bosses in all of them. I’ve witnessed terrible decision making in all of them. The common denominator is humans.

  17. Mitford*

    Yet another Virginia here, too. I guess the only saving grace is that Youngin can’t run for re-election as governor, but, Lordy, what a putz he is right now.

    1. Toads,+Beetles,+Bats*

      Nah, he’ll go for the Senate after he comes in seventh in the Iowa caucuses. God help us.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        The bigots don’t care how awful the person they’re voting for is, so long as that politician hates the same minorities and poor people they do.

  18. Irish Teacher*

    Just commenting to say that before I googled to find out, I sort of thought the name was a made-up one, like the LW was referring to him as the equivalent of “Governor Young-dude.”

    1. Mitford*

      You may not have seen it, but a couple of weeks ago Trump started riffing on how Youngkin sounded like a Chinese name.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        No, I didn’t know that and rereading my comment, I can see that I really shouldn’t have phrased it the way I did. What I meant to say was that I assumed she chose a name that was a description of the guy, like he was young for his role or was the type of person who tried to look younger than he was, but yeah, I phrased it really badly and like I was implying it was a ridiculous name and that context makes it worse, so I’m sorry. I just meant it as “I didn’t realise this was about a well-known person. I assumed the name was just chosen at random and described him in some way,” but…phrasing it as “a made-up one” really wasn’t a good decision on my part. And I certainly wouldn’t have said it if I knew the name was considered to sound like it was a minority one.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            For some reason our pets always have the suffix -loo – they are puppaloos and babyloos. No idea why.

        1. Mitford*

          I understand completely and was not in any way criticizing you.

          My cat, the late, great Mitford, was known as the Mitkin for many years. :)

  19. Sotired*

    Many people have been upset over the service that various government agencies did with remote work. Think IRS, Social Security. I am not blaming it on the people, they likely did not have needed infrastructure. But that being said, I can see why government workers were ordered back, and it is can be hard to distinguish who really need to be back. But some government work was not getting done.

    1. Reg Commenter Anon Today*

      But that is not a reason to say “alright, everybody back to the office!” That is a reason to actually look at what IS working and what ISN’T working and make decisions based on facts, which is absolutely not what Youngkin did.

      1. changingnametemporarily*

        I love the study he said they relied on. All you got was an abstract unless you paid for it. But, you could tell from the abstract that:

        a. the study was conducted in 2007, well before the pandemic and when much of the technology we had over the pandemic was developed; and

        b. the study was not even about telework and was about the fact that if you interact with your coworkers, you are more productive.

        In all honesty, I would say that last part is debatable depending on the type of job you have and the type of person you are. However, more to the point, the job I had in 2011 to 2013 was for an entirely remote company, with no actual office. We were spread throughout the country, and yet I never had a job where I had to and did interact so much with other people every day. I honestly had to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to be able to focus on reviewing contracts before the interactions began and made it impossible to get that work done. So yeah, the article really did not make for good support.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      You might want to do some more research into the massive agency cuts to staffing with simultaneous huge program increases due to changes in laws and regulations that those agencies were trying to cope with before you blame telework.

      Wow does that comment piss me off. (and, before someone bitches, I’m on leave not “wasting tax payer dollars” right now)

      Holy crap.

      1. Sotired*

        I do not think any programs were added to social security and they were terribly backed up. I think the remote work was not effective.

        Yes, the IRS added programs, BUT I still think the remote work was a problem.

        It is clear that voters were against remote schooling, I do not think that worked either.

        1. RunShaker*

          so how do you send people back to an office that doesn’t exist and expect gov’t employees to work & be productive & provide services that were lacking? Remote work does work for most positions. The issue is when you have elected officials doing budgets & staff cuts that had been happening for years then service will be lacking. Elected officials had a chance to develop plans in case there was catastrophe that would prevent employees going into the office ( many in corporate world does this). Remote work isn’t the issue. It’s having a proper budget & staff to do the work needed.

        2. shedubba*

          Remote schooling is a completely different issue. For better or worse, part of the purpose of public school in this country is “child storage”, having a place for children to be supervised by responsible adults while their parents work. It’s not the main purpose, of course, but it’s an ancillary effect that society has come to depend on. Remote schooling takes away that aspect. My kids did fine with remote schooling, but that was because I don’t have other employment and could spend my day keeping them on task. A responsible adult doing their job doesn’t need constant supervision to actually do their job, unlike children who do need to be supervised.

        3. Charlotte+Lucas*

          I thought the IRS issues went back years, because they’re severely understaffed & the Legislative branch refuses to put it in the budget, because people hate the IRS (& taxes) & they don’t want to anger constituents.

          Oh, & the volume of work my state agency did while most of us were fully remote was mind-boggling.

          1. MM*

            You’re correct, the IRS’s problems do go back years. There was a good article a few months ago about a regional IRS office and how completely lacking in tech and staffing they were. They were still using stuff that was cutting edge in the 60s.

        4. KateElla (UK)*

          You can’t think why Social Security would be having issues given they issue things like… survivor benefits. In a pandemic.

    3. Hard Working Government Worker*

      Agree that this broad-brush perspective is frustrating. SOME people may need to be in the office, SOME may not have had the tools initially to do their job, but that is not a reason to require everyone to return. It’s not hard to distinguish roles that can be done remotely or hybrid. And as noted:

      Staffing cuts + changes in laws/regulations + Program increases = massive work overload.

      My job can and has been done 100% remotely, but because I’m at a 24/hr facility, no one is allowed to work remotely more than 1/day a week. That’s their prerogative, but they will and have lost people they can ill afford to lose over this. I have one job offer already and I’m hoping to get a second by the end of the week. It’s also detrimental to the company’s productivity – when no flexibility is granted, my enthusiasm for working extra unpaid hours greatly diminishes. It’s not like I get a bonus for working harder here!

    4. Different name*

      I can give a perspective from UK social security. When covid hit service was appalling – not because of extra programmes, but because there were far more people applying for help or asking about whether they could get help, because staff were juggling childcare, and because, guess what, people were ill with covid. We rolled out an effective structure in days – helped because people had been working partly-from-home for years. It’s truly impressive things weren’t worse.
      Now we have a 40% back to the office rule (100% for jobs that have to be) and we’re struggling with high levels of absence because people keep catching covid and other diseases, and we’re struggling to fill roles because the pay’s not keeping up with private sector and because we’re enforcing a 40% in-office rule, so the service still ain’t great.

      None of this would be improved by more in-office time.

    5. Someone Online*

      The Washington Post did a deep dive on the back ups at the IRS. They are still manually typing information from paper returns in to computers that use green screens. This is what happens when money isn’t invested in infrastructure.

    6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It was a lot about how it was done and the fast turnaround, the lack of transparency and understanding of the process, the fact that it was more restrictive than the pre-pandemic policy, the fact that the people making the decisions were not the managers who are most familiar with the obligations and realities of the jobs in question, and the failure to factor in those realities into the decision. It was very arbitrary. It was expected to happen faster than they could do it, and failed to make allowances for the fact that many state offices were closed down and there was literally no office space. And it was announced right at the end of state employee appreciation week. Oh, and a new telework policy for an increased number of days in office had just gone into effect for a lot of state agencies.

      Also, the IRS and SS are federal, not state, and they were already terribly understaffed due to funding cuts by people who politically ally with this state’s current administration.

      Many people had trouble in VA with unemployment, but that is because the number of unemployment claims during the pandemic were record high and in person or teleworking, that was going to be an issue. DMV was problematic too, but they were still in the building and seeing people … it was the restrictions on how many people could come in, the requirements for appointments, etc. that held things up, not the lack of in-person staff. It had practically no effect on my job because we are not public facing providing services in my role. So honestly, it made no sense to pull this with my role or even with my agency.

      So I am afraid that your point is just not … quite as valid as you seem to think it is.

      1. changingnametemporarily*

        clarification, I meant teleworking or being in office had no effect on my job. I do not work for the DMV.

      2. Free Now and Forever*

        One of the blessings of the pandemic as far as state government here in Connecticut were the changes that it and new leadership forced on the notorious DMV. Connecticut is not known as “The Land of Steady Habits” for nothing. And dealing with the DMV meant going and waiting for outlandish amounts of time. No more. Now you either do it online or make an appointment. And when you go to that appointment, you don’t spend time waiting. As someone who once worked in the court system in our state and experienced it’s backwardness in terms of computer systems. It’s good to see things change. My husband is a judge and now does most of his hearings on Microsoft Teams. The attorneys love it as they’re no forced to drive from courthouse to courthouse to handle various clients cases.

  20. Dona Florinda*

    Wow. I just want to thank you OP for sending us an update and keep us informed even with all this witch-hunt going around.

  21. megaboo*

    I just finished a paper about telework and Youngkin for my public administration masters! I hope you can get out or retire in peace when the time comes. He is just hemorrhaging staff, isn’t he?

  22. West coast snow*

    If you are required to bring your entire team in, it sounds like there are some wonderful opportunities for malicious compliance. I bet your team could brainstorm some great ideas under the guise of ‘team building’.

    In reality I think your situation is ridiculous and that your time and energy could be much better spend actually doing your jobs rather than dealing with this nonsense.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’m all for malicious compliance where ever possible.

      It sounds like there are no offices? So I’m picturing everyone standing in a small work area asking where the computers are and unable to work so nothing gets done. Not a solution, but I’m enjoying picturing it.

      1. anonymouslywritten*

        My office still exists, but some agencies cut back on office space. Some have speculated that Youngkin has friends in commercial real estate who wanted him to push this so they could rent out their real estate again. But they announced this in May and expected to fully implement it by July 5, which was another unrealistic and unreasonable expectation, especially for agencies that no longer had office space.

  23. Burner From VA*

    Just another name-making crusade so Youngkin for President can get 1% in a couple of primaries before going back to private equity.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      LW, I just wanted to say it sounds like you’ve done great work protecting your team. I’ve been a state worker when our governor was attempting to run for President. It is exhausting, and often infuriating feeling like a stage prop when you’re just trying to do your jobs and help people. I hope you’re able to get a break, and I’m sure your team appreciates the cover you give them.

  24. RunShaker*

    It blows my mind that Governors & other elected officials don’t get and/or try to understand how the real world works….in reference to how typical Americans work & handle day to day life. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised….. I’m in Texas & feel our boat may be similar.
    So much for being “for the people.”

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      “Governors & other elected officials don’t get and/or try to understand how the real world works”

      Actually, I think they think they do understand the real world better than everyone else and that is the source of the problem.

  25. Greengirl*

    Solidarity LW from another state employee in VA. We’re all sorry to be dealing with a governor who puts appearances above the commonwealth.

  26. Michelle+Smith*

    I hate to ask for this, but it seems like this situation may not be over. Would you please provide another update if more happens in the months ahead? As someone who faced a similar government directive to return to the office last year (not in Virginia) and used the ADA accommodation process to work from home for an entire “extra” year because I developed a disability during the pandemic, I am deeply interested in issues like yours. I’m quite emotionally invested in the outcome of this situation.

  27. Brain the Brian*

    Thank you, OP, from a fellow Virginian, for sticking it out thus far and trying to maintain our state’s tradition of competent governance. Saluting you and your colleagues every day…

  28. FormerVAContractor*

    Oooooooh man, I saw this headline and knew it was VA! I worked as a contractor with the VDH for about 1.5yrs during the pandemic. Complete chaos.

    I remember filling out the survey when this announced, even though it wouldn’t have applied to me. Some of the questions had language like ‘I want to return to work even if I will have to share a desk with another employee’ or ‘I think it’s valuable to be in person with my team even if I cannot sit near them’

    The new VA Gov came in and immediately fired a lot of the top officials, including the former deputy commissioner of the VDH. It’s been more than just a clusterfudge! I’m so glad I got out of there – but some of my former team is now employed full time with the VDH. I sent them this so we could all laugh and laugh and laugh…

  29. Anon in State Gov*

    Super interested in further updates about this, as a state government employee in another state where each agency is currently able to make their own telework policy. The rumor mill is working hard after the recent election, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were asked to come back full time soon.

    It’s super frustrating, but in our case, it all comes back to optics and incompetent management. No one is willing to do the work to call out and correct issues, so it’s easier to just force everyone back in to the office. It looks bad to have state workers at home, where our horribly slow response times might be attributed to staff slacking off and not our outdated processes, broken hierarchies, and non-existent training resources.

    I think most people will stay put, but our management vastly overestimates how good our pay and benefits are, especially for entry level technical staff. We are already not attracting many good candidates since private sector salaries have taken off in the last couple years, and removing telework will be the nail in that coffin. You can’t even say anything about it (I’ve tried), because it just falls on deaf ears and makes you sound like a cynic.

  30. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

    I’m so sorry, LW. But I am glad that you are bringing sunlight to something that the administration would like to keep hidden. It’s important that people know these things, as much as the people in power want that stopped.

  31. Anon+for+This*

    You sure can fool enough of the people long enough to get elected to some pretty high offices.

    This guy campaigned on such major issues as getting Critical Race Theory out of the public schools and enough people bought into it.

    Then, he turned around and tried to get Trump’s former EPA director to head up Virginia’s version of the EPA. Who doesn’t want a former energy industry lobbyist [his job before heading up the EPA] to be in charge of protecting your state’s natural resources?

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