Uniformed Total Force Airmen and Guardians can telework and work remotely under new guidance from the Department of the Air Force, building on lessons learned from the past year.
The Air Force on May 18 released updated guidance on telework, which gives service members the chance to work from a location other than their unit’s duty station—provided their job allows for it and commanders sign off on it. The new guidance also includes guidelines for civilian personnel.
“The Department of the Air Force is using lessons learned about teleworking and remote work during the pandemic as an opportunity to grow,” said John A. Fedrigo, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, in a release. “The pandemic has shown we can be successful using telework in many areas of our mission, and it helps to bridge our current force structure to the force we need for the future.”
The new guidance opens the door for an Airman or Guardian to work remotely if the squadron commander or equivalent, with input from supervisors, allows it. The ultimate decision will depend on the nature of work performed and whether allowing telework or remote work would diminish the service member’s ability to perform the work successfully or negatively impact the mission, according to the release. Even if a position is deemed to be ineligible for remote work or telework, there could be circumstances in which it can be considered “on an emergency or situational basis,” according to the Air Force.
Remote work refers to personnel working permanently from an operating location other than their unit’s station. Telework, by contrast, is establishing a regular schedule to periodically work from home or another location, though that individual is still assigned to the unit’s location, according to the guidance.
If a service member is approved for full remote work, there will be arrangements made to get support from the nearest installation, such as access to health care and a commissary.
Air Force officials said the new policy can help recruit and retain more personnel who may have avoided working with the service or staying in uniform because of the requirements to work at a base.
“With remote work, we can now attract someone with the specialized skills we need and not require them to relocate when it makes sense for the mission, the individual, and a member’s development,” said Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, in a release. “We recognize the value these flexible work arrangements can have, in some circumstances, to enhance work-life balance and maximize organizational productivity.”
The Air Force released an extensive 27-page document detailing the new rules, including how to pursue the opportunity. Because each decision is made on a case-by-case basis, the Air Force does not have an estimate of how many personnel might eventually telework or work from home.