New OPM Survey Reveals Employee Opinions on the Federal Workplace

Recently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the results of a 2020 survey it conducted, aimed at assessing the well-being and experiences of federal employees throughout 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic still a key issue in workplaces across the nation, understanding how federal employees feel the last year has been for them can be illuminating, allowing us to understand how government employees are perceiving the pandemic and their workplaces during this challenging time.

At John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, we help federal employees resolve complex legal disputes. Contact us online or via phone at (202) 759-7780 for help with your case.

What Was the Scope of the Survey?

The survey measured a wide range of federal employee opinions, including:

  • How engaged workers felt;
  • Whether they felt their skills were well-used;
  • How easy they felt it was to work with their colleagues;
  • How they felt about telework (a topic for another blog entirely, perhaps);
  • How they felt the COVID-19 pandemic impacted federal workplaces;
  • How much they trusted their leaders;
  • And more.

Notably, the survey was designed to be administration-agnostic. In other words, no questions on the survey asked questions such as whether federal employees felt as though the current administration (headed by President Trump at the time the survey was issued) treated them better or worse than previous administrations.

What Were the Results?

Overall, federal employees seemed to be satisfied with their experienced working during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost to a shocking degree. In fact, Kim Wells, the Office of Personnel Management's Manager of Survey Analysis, said she had to ask her team to run the results again after seeing them to make sure they were correct.

Some highlights of the survey included:

  • 75% of federal employees said their work gave them a sense of personal accomplishment, an increase of 3%;
  • 66% said their talents were well-sued, an increase of 5%;
  • 84% said they were able to collaborate well with other employees, an increase of 7%;
  • Leaders and supervisors increased their ratings from employees by 5% and 4%, respectively;
  • 71% of federal employees said they would recommend their specific agency as a good place to work, an increase of 4%;
  • 51% of employees said their agencies recognized performance in "meaningful" ways, an increase of 12%.

However, it's important to note a few things about the survey. Firstly, it only contained 38 questions, compared to 73 questions from 2019's survey. As a result, employees may have felt as though they had to give less nuanced answers. A smaller pool of questions could also mean fewer opportunities for employees to express dissatisfactory experiences adequately.

Additionally, it's worth thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic played into the survey. While it's true that elements of the pandemic, such as agencies switching to full-time work-from-home arrangements, may have been difficult for employees to handle, there's another angle to consider. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic also often have a way of forcing people to bond with each other and band together. It will be interesting to see whether the sense of camaraderie between employees developed throughout the pandemic maintains itself if the OPM sends out another survey in 2021, or if federal employees will start reporting more dissatisfaction once workplace activities start to slow down, and the nation as a whole starts to "recover" from the virus.

At John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, our federal employment lawyers are here to help if you have issues with your government workplace. Contact us online or via phone at (202) 759-7780 to schedule a consultation with our team.

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