Thank you for your commitment to achieving the Department’s mission during these challenging times. As I have said from the beginning of this pandemic, the Department would not and indeed, has not stopped working. Your flexibility and dedication have enabled our mission essential and mission support functions to continue through trying circumstances.
As the country begins to cautiously “reopen,” it is time for us to begin the process toward a return of normalcy in our day-to-day work in DOE. On May 7, the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) operating status for the Federal government changed to state that the government is transitioning to a phased return to normal operations that is in line with national guidelines, state/local conditions, and other factors. I am pleased to announce that we have developed the Department’s Return to the Federal Workplace Framework. The Department’s Framework outlines a phased approach as DOE moves from its current posture toward more normal operations, utilizing guidelines provided by the White House, OPM, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Department’s Framework provides overarching guidance for DOE’s leadership to consider as they develop departmental Site/Facility plans for a safe return of federal employees and onsite support service contractors to the workplace, which will occur in three phases. It provides guidance on who should return in each phase, as well as actions to ensure that the workplace is prepared to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Additionally, DOE’s Framework recognizes that the status of operations for DOE sites across the country varies according to the mission essential functions performed at those sites and local health conditions. The Department’s Framework can be found on our COVID-19 Hub. DOE’s Framework is flexible, and will allow sites/facilities to tailor their plans to reflect these varied circumstances and site-specific needs. The DOE Headquarters Return to the Workplace Plan is also available on our COVID-19 Hub.
As we move forward, your health and safety will remain our number one priority. In the Framework, you will see that Federal employees who are currently teleworking or are on Weather and Safety Leave will be allowed to self-identify if they are in one of the CDC-identified high risk categories, or if they live with or provide care for individuals in those categories. These employees can remain on telework until a later phase. Additionally, Federal employees who are responsible for additional caregiving in instances where services are unavailable due to COVID-19 will be permitted to continue teleworking until a later phase.
I would like to emphasize that no timelines have been set for the initiation of Phase 1 of the Department’s return to the workplace. Due to differences in local conditions, some facilities will initiate their Phase 1 return to the workplace before others. For those in the field, you will receive specific notification from DOE Site/Facility leadership. At this time, we do not have a date to initiate Phase 1 of the Headquarters Return to the Workplace plan.
As we work to begin DOE’s return to the Federal workplace process, I remain confident that we will continue to demonstrate the same commitment and dedication to our mission. Please continue to take care of yourselves and your families, and we will continue to get through this together.
Be well and stay safe.
Secretary of Energy