State employee excoriates Virginia’s new return-to-the-workplace policy

5/12/2022, 6 p.m.
I am underpaid, I am tired and I am frustrated.

I am underpaid, I am tired and I am frustrated.

Being a government employee used to mean something. I have held both federal and state level government jobs. Government jobs used to be stable, used to have more meaning than paper pushing, used to have pay commensurate with the job skill level and used to have great benefits.

When the new state retirement plan came out around seven or eight years ago, it took away the great retirement benefits previous government employees used to have. In fact, the retirement plan has changed several times now, revealing a more confusing structure with less employee benefit with each iteration.

Now, the latest kick in the pants: Effective July 5, all Virginia Department of Human Resource Management employees can only telework one day a week max, and it has to be an approved job by the director.

Most state employees have spent the better part of two years working from home due to the COVID-19 crisis. During this time, employees have maintained the status quo and were able to complete their work from home with no major interruptions.

My boss, ever the analytical neurotic, kept meticulous records of employee productivity level. While he/she would have gladly made us come into the office in the middle of the end of times and the building on fire, he/she ended up not being able to prove we were any less effective from home.

Additionally, we had a wonderful agency director who understood the strange and discomforting times we were going through and had as many employees work from home as possible.

All of this to say we were productive. When our work had no meaning, when we were and are severely underpaid, when we have a bleak retirement prediction, at least we could work in the comfort and safety of our homes.

Whether you believe COVID-19 is over or not has no bearing on this fact. State employees have worked from home for more than two years now and to take it away with a unilateral decision without weighing the pros and cons and job type is a punishment.

Gas is sitting pretty at $4.25 per gallon and now the state asks us to commute every day into an office to perform a job that we did satisfactorily at home. There is no such thing as “office culture” that we need to return to.

If “culture” is my grey cube, I want no part of it.

Our raises are few and far between, and when they come, are not enough to keep pace with inflation. So now that gas is at a super high, we are now taking a pay cut to come into an office where we do not want to be.

Why do we not evaluate each job and determine whether it can be worked from home? Why can we not evaluate the employee based on their annual evaluation whether work from home is suitable?

All I know is this: I am job searching, and I know everyone around me is as well.

Virginia, you have screwed yourself. Good luck keeping good employees and good luck hiring. You don’t get any sympathy from me when your cubicles are empty.