Depending on which expert you trust, anywhere from 25-to-40-plus percent of the American workforce are working from home. Many, if not most, public school students are learning — or not — remotely. Usually from home.

Some people like it that way. They say they are more productive and that kids (assuming they get some parental input) are better. And that the stay-at-homes are likely to get or spread COVID-19 to family members. Others say that certain jobs can’t be done properly and effectively from home. And that their children are being denied their right to a good (as in non-Zoom) education. Some who view schools as part educational, part daycare operations, can’t wait for their beloved offspring to go back to the classroom. Families that include teachers who are apparently more vulnerable to the virus than the kids they share-air-with have very mixed emotions.

The federal government, by some accounts, seems to have one of the best pandemic work plans. And it has made serious efforts to vaccinate front-line workers who can’t do their jobs from home. Schools, by contrast, are following a wide and often conflicting array of plans. Some have had students back and forth between their classroom and their living room. In some places, governors or state education officials make the school or home-schooling call.

For people who have an interest in what’s next in the work world, what the federal government does is critical. Before the coronavirus hit or was acknowledged, a number of federal agencies had focused on work-for-home operations. As in reducing or eliminating them. Part of it was the drain-the-swamp campaign. Part of it was to spank federal unions that had successfully pushed teleworking programs. And extended union/worker rights with, up until this time last year, were rent-free quarters in federal buildings. Unions say the efforts were aimed at protecting workers, including nonmembers, and enforcing legitimate contracts. Trump administration officials felt that past teleworking deals,  pushed mainly by Democrats in the house, were short-changing taxpayers who pay civil servants salaries. The fact that the leaders, and many local leaders, of all the federal/postal worker unions, endorsed Democrat Joe Biden over Trump probably didn’t help.

Now that there appears to be light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many operations — from schools to Social Security offices — need to rethink Plan B. Should they go back to the office/school? And how? And when? In the U.S. with 50 states there are scores of different plans operating side by side. Or in conflict county-by-county. Figuring out the risk-reward factor is actually rocket science. Plus a big dose of reality and horse-sense.

The government, for a change, may actually lead the way in the stay-home or return-to-office movement. Which could be critical for both society in general in both the immediate future and for decades to come. Federal News Network’s Nicole Ogrysko recently reported on the new effort to decide the next step.

In the past, in both surveys and individual conversations, we talked to or heard from lots of feds about the pros and cons of working from home (no traffic, quality breathing air, etc.) vs. the loss of contact with colleagues (not to mention customers) and the absence of the wisdom-of-the-crowd effect when you are home alone in your nighty or PJs, or watching kids watching their teachers on a screen.

Of all the readers I’ve heard from, I think only a couple have said they want or need to get back to the office to do their jobs properly. And keep their sanity. The vast majority say they don’t want to go back, certainly not under a 5-day at the office week. So what’s going on with you? How are you holding up? Where should Uncle Sam as an employer, and the school systems, as our investment in the future (and sometimes babysitter) go from here?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

An estimated 3 million shipwrecks are spread across ocean floors around the planet. Some of these wrecks are thousands of years old and can provide precious historical information. A shipwreck by nature is testimony to trade and cultural dialogue between peoples. It also functions as a time capsule, providing a complete snapshot of the life on board at the time of the sinking.

Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization