The Jan. 28 editorial “It’s time federal employees returned to the office” was misguided. The opinion that downtown D.C. is suffering from vacant offices and closed restaurants because of the federal telework policy is valid, but it is not the responsibility of the federal government to address these issues. The federal government and its workers have imperatives: to do the best job for the least amount of taxpayer money and to serve its employees. Federal agencies can and are establishing their own telework policies that best serve the federal government and agency employees. These agencies decide when and how often their employees must go to the office, and federal employees are going into the office as expected. The new system is working and has become highly valued among federal employees.
The editorial did not mention that federal workers who are now able to work from home at least part time have helped reduce local traffic congestion, pollution and energy consumption. Nor did the editorial mention that federal workers who can telework have helped their local communities through increased dining and shopping where they live. Federal workers, who have for decades commuted faithfully via the challenging Metro system or on congested highways, have now adjusted to the new telework policies — as have their families. These dedicated public servants should not now be used to prop up the D.C. economy. They deserve better.
Dominic Russoli, Rockville
As an employee of the federal government for almost 20 years, never once has my job description included helping my agency “inculcate values” among my colleagues. Nor have I ever agreed to help keep downtown D.C. “booming” by discounting my proven ability to do my job effectively from home, as I have for the past three years. Having no commute means spending more time with my young children and getting to enjoy the home and neighborhood my wife and I are paying so dearly to live in. I’d sooner quit than give these up.
Marc Pfeuffer, Takoma Park
I read with bemusement the editorial and reports of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) urging employers to compel their workforces to return to in-person work to “save” downtown. After years of municipal neglect and some resentment by official D.C. toward out-of-town commuters, to find ourselves wanted is a strange experience. Yet, the newfound love would feel more genuine if it weren’t accompanied by a host of efforts to make the daily commute even more soul-crushing.
From lower speed limits to fewer or narrower lanes, to the impending end of “right on red,” driving in D.C. has never been more difficult. Metrorail — with comparatively infrequent service and regular delays, and now with the recent proposal to disproportionately increase fares on employees traveling from the suburbs — is not an attractive alternative.
Most office employees don’t need to be in the office on a regular basis to do their jobs, and forcing them to do so for some greater civic good seems quixotic. Admittedly, D.C. is balancing competing goals, including making the city more bike-friendly. Yet, if Ms. Bowser truly wants to encourage returns to the office, one step she could take would be to make the commuting experience as inviting as possible.
Behnam Dayanim, Silver Spring
The editorial calling for federal employees to return to the office focused exclusively on the purported benefits of requiring federal employees to return downtown. But what about the costs of doing so? What about the cost to the environment, as hundreds of thousands of additional people drive into the city during the week? What about the cost to families and equity, as women and other underrepresented individuals are forced to pay for additional child care or drop out of the workforce altogether because they’re commuting for two hours a day rather than caring for their children? What about the effect on housing affordability, as more people are forced to live closer to the city?’
We should evaluate this issue based on the costs and benefits to our society overall, rather than focusing solely on the city’s business and real estate interests.
Greg Hillson, Alexandria