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Maybe all those federal workers should just work from home

Maybe all those federal workers should just work from home

It’s hard to believe that Republican House Oversight Chairman James Comer, and Democrat D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have anything in common – but they do – and on the other side is Democrat President Joe Biden.  

Just this month Biden finally called on federal agencies to “aggressively execute” plans to get employees back to in-person work this fall after three plus years of working remotely due to COVID-19.  

Bowser has been influential in this decision, making an unexpected ultimatum to Biden and his federal employees in January of this year during her inauguration address. She told Biden, “Get your employees back to in-person work – or else vacate your lifeless downtown office buildings so we can fill the city with people again.” 


For those of us who thought we may never agree with Bowser – this was a welcome surprise. 

Letting more Americans work from home would open up government jobs all across the US. FILE: A man walks past an employees entrance sign outside the Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. on Friday, June 5, 2015.  (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

To her credit, back in July 2021, Bowser hosted an official “Welcome Back” celebration and declared “D.C. is open.” That was more than two years ago. Although she personally set the example with her staff, the biggest employer in D.C., the federal government has yet to follow suit. 

Washington, D.C., has the highest work-from-home rate in the country and telework is killing the heart of the city. While many big American cities are bustling again post-Covid, D.C. remains emptier, with businesses scarcer than pre-Covid.  

Crime has ticked up, homelessness, drug use, and effects of mental illness are abundantly evident even in broad daylight. The Metro has about one third of its previous ridership, leading to a vicious cycle of delays, less routing, an increased feeling of being unsafe – perpetuating less ridership. 

The House Oversight Committee has reinforced the desire to return to work by launching an investigation into telework failures and sponsoring the “SHOW UP” Act, mandating a return to work in person. This is due to concern over the performance of government workers – and the potential waste of taxpayer money. A justifiable worry. 

Not only is D.C. failing as a hub for work, business and industry, but on the other side of the ledger, with closing stores, limited services, rising crime, citizen fear, lack of affordable housing and fewer people moving into D.C. for work or for the city itself, D.C. has entered a dangerous and unsustainable trend. If federal workers don’t return in person as soon as possible, D.C. as a city is in deep trouble – perhaps a death spiral. 

D.C. is so much a city in decline that House Republicans, citing the city’s rising crime problem, have resurrected a proposal to have Congress take over district government operations by eliminating D.C. home rule, which would remove the district’s powers and ability to govern itself.  

Although this likely won’t be implemented, it’s a warning shot across the bow to the mayor and city council members that the House Republicans are keeping a close eye on D.C. government and how it is addressing public safety and the overall decline and erosion of the city and services to its residents. 

Yet perhaps this return-to-work conversation is an opportunity for conservatives to insert new thinking and reimagine the federal work force as they eye returning to the White House in 2025.  

Representative James Comer, R-KY, agrees with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about government workers. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Rather than forcing the federal workforce back into D.C. buildings, if these roles are essential, but have been proven to be successful remotely, why do we need to continue to pay D.C. prices to an employee who is working from home in proximity to the beltway? Why not pay someone in Iowa, South Dakota or Texas. 

America would receive the benefit of fresh ideas, outside-of-Washington thinking, a new talent pool, and perhaps a wider span of political ideology. Instead of drawing a 30-mile radius around Washington, D.C., and being limited by those who live there, the entire country becomes a broader, deeper, more robust talent pool for hiring.  

And hiring more widely nationwide could dilute the abundance of civil servants who are imbedded after a Democrat administration into the bureaucracy and often work against, not for, a Republican presidential administration. 

When we have a Republican president, the bureaucracy should support their agenda, because it is the will of the people who voted for that direction of the country – the same as when a Democrat is in the White House.  

Washington, D.C., has the highest work-from-home rate in the country and telework is killing the heart of the city. While many big American cities are bustling again post-Covid, D.C. remains emptier, with businesses scarcer than pre-Covid.  

Too often though it feels as if Republicans are the “away” team, even when they are the party in power. Democrats shouldn’t perpetually feel entitled as the “home” team, yet with a heavily Democrat federal workforce, it often plays out that way. 

Much of the nation feels that government has grown far beyond the consent of the governed. 


Allowing a wider range of Americans to participate in the work of the federal government, not limited to geography, would help restore that consent. And technological efficiencies could drastically reduce the size of the workforce entirely. 

The next Republican administration could also think about further breaking the Democrat Party stranglehold over the federal government by streamlining and decentralizing government. With technology allowing remote work and teamwork from a variety of time zones and zip codes, they could explore additional ways to revive cities and engage work forces all across the nation.  

The FBI is looking to move to new headquarters. Perhaps working-from-home policies would solve its space problem. FILE: Sign outside the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. (Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The closer people are to government, the more they are invested in it and keep an eye on it – both deeply needed today in positive and proactive ways.  


If there continues to be a reluctance for the federal workforce to return to in person work in D.C., perhaps the next conservative administration can leverage this to its advantage and return the workforce to serving the entirety of the American people, not just serving itself – and one party.  

Peggy Grande was executive assistant to Ronald Reagan and is author of “The President Will See You Now.” She served as a political appointee in the Trump Administration, working for the Office of Personnel Management. Peggy serves on the Board of Pepperdine School of Public Policy, and the Board of The Center for American Ideas. 


Peggy Grande is author of “The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years.” She was executive assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1989-1999 and served as a political appointee in the Trump administration. She was chair of World for Brexit, serves on the national board of the Royal Commonwealth Society of the USA, the board of advisers for Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and the board of directors for the Center for American Ideas.  Follow her on Twitter @peggy_grande.


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Is there such a thing as being ‘too nice’ at work?

Is there such a thing as being “too nice” at work? Tessa West says absolutely.

She’s a professor of psychology at New York University who wrote a book called “Jerks at Work.” And she says being overly positive is akin to being “accidental jerky.”

West joins host Deepa Fernandes to talk through the harms — and possible solutions — for your workplace relationships.

This segment aired on September 6, 2023.

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