Man working from home in bed by Microbiz Mag is licensed under CC BY 2.0 DEED.

Nearly a year and a half has passed since the Biden administration declared an end to the coronavirus pandemic, but many federal workers are still clinging to their remote work habits.

With telework rates rising 45 percent since 2019, lawmakers have grown frustrated by the sluggish efforts of federal agencies to bring employees back to the office. In a recent letter to acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, House Committee on Education and the Workforce  Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) denounced the Department of Labor (DOL) for using the Covid-19 emergency to perpetuate a remote-work pandemic of its own. The DOL has until March 20th to provide a return-to-work action plan for House lawmakers.

Although in-person work has been labeled a top priority by President Biden, this objective has been largely ignored by unelected officials who value cozy schedules more than worker productivity. According to Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the DOL has disregarded requests for return-to-office action plans for nearly four years, exposing American taxpayers to “significant waste, fraud, and abuse.” Furthermore, House Republicans took aim at acting Secretary Su, stating that her inability “to respect taxpayer dollars” directly stems from her failure “to garner any level of accountability from their employees.”

According to a 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint survey, nearly one third of DOL officials engaged in fully remote work, while 40 percent of employees conducted telework at least three times a week. While this level of remote work may have been excusable during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis, the Biden administration officially declared an end to the pandemic in September 2022. With 73 percent of DOL employees living within commuting distance to their headquarters, House Republicans have asserted that “pandemic-style remote work policies do not reflect post-pandemic realities.”

This workplace exodus has enabled a massive waste of federal resources, with unused office space collecting dust while DOL officials champion the virtues of remote work. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the DOL and five other agencies only used 23 percent of their headquarters space in 2023. This resulted in a 1600 square foot space allocation for employees that bothered to visit their headquarters, a far cry from the federal benchmark of 190 square feet. For context, the United States Census Bureau estimates that the average size of an American single-family home was 2,299 square feet in 2022.

While thousands of officials have clung to the comforts of home, taxpayer revenue has been squandered on unused office space, a reality that House Republicans have found “extremely concerning and indicative of mismanagement.” Lawmakers further criticized the Biden administration for failing to exert control over its Cabinet members, arguing that the DOL’s failure to cooperate “demonstrates that the White House cannot exercise the most basic management functions over its own agencies.”

For the past four years, the federal government has been mired in workplace dysfunction. With federal employees lounging at home, the administrative state has slowed to a glacial pace of inefficiency. Taxpayers deserve a better return on their hard-earned dollars. Americans for Tax Reform applauds the efforts of the House Education and Workforce Committee to expose the failures of “pandemic-style” remote work, while holding President Biden accountable for his tenuous control over his own Cabinet.