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A Qualitative Study of Pandemic-Induced Telework: Federal Workers Thrive, Working Parents Struggle

Lauren Bock Mullins, Gina Scutelnicu & √Čtienne Charbonneau
PAQ, Vol. 46 No. 3, 258-281 (2022)

This study examines the forced transition to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic using qualitative data from two open surveys administered by the Federal News Network in 2020: in the first two months and, then, 10 months into the pandemic. We provide in-depth analysis of 1,969 open-ended comments from 1,589 federal employees collected seven months apart, telling the story of how they continued performing their responsibilities under a full-time telework schedule. Federal employees perceive the transition to full-time telework during the pandemic had a positive effect on organizational performance, work productivity and work-life balance for most federal employees. An exception is working parents, who faced significant hardships due to the pandemic. Additionally, results show pandemic-induced telework was credited with mixed successes for job satisfaction and social integration, and had not been successful in terms of supervisor support and organizational trust, which puts the success of the social contract theory in these situations in jeopardy. Finally, results suggest that federal employees envision more work will become telework-eligible in the new normal and welcome this shift.

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