(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Two years ago, many Department of Defense employees were sent home to telework due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The consensus at the time was that it would only be temporary. However that “temporary solution” has become a real-world reality for many federal employees.

It appears that many federal employees, including the ones who work at the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, may be entering a new phase of work: A phase where they blend both working from home and working at the office. It is called hybrid working.

This is a fairly new concept, but in the simplest terms it is a working arrangement that involves the employee splitting their time between teleworking and coming into the office.

Hybrid work will allow ASC to preserve its pre-pandemic office work culture, but still meet the expectation for greater work flexibility. It is a balance between employee and employer preferences.

During a town hall meeting held Feb. 10, Matt Sannito, deputy to the commanding general, ASC, stated that he wanted ASC to have a “21st Century workplace for our workforce.”

Sannito said that the real challenge ASC faced as an organization (over the past two years of working in a COVID environment) was its willingness and ability to adapt.

“The mission has not suffered; if anything, I have seen the organization rally that much more to ensure that what we do each and every day for the warfighter and the families is still effective,” Sannito said during an interview in January.

“I think where the challenge goes for us going forward, is how do we take those best practices, where it will be a blended organization, between who is in the traditional physical structure building and who is teleworking,” said Sannito.

Many ASC employees have strong feelings about hybrid work. Some like teleworking and others prefer to be in the office.

Melissa Peterson, who works in the ASC G-1 (Human Resources) section has teleworked for the past two years. She said she really enjoys the fact that teleworking has increased the level of trust of her as a professional, and that factor has increased her overall engagement and passion for her job.

She went on to say she has found other benefits that have come with teleworking.

“I could say a lot of things about hybrid working such as, I've gained two-hours a day from not having to commute, which enhances my quality of life,” said Peterson. “I have saved money on gas, insurance, maintenance, clothes, and food. My overall health has increased because I am able to eat healthier and not be rushed in the morning to get to the office on time. My stress level has gone down and I have had to take less leave to go to medical appointments.”

Other ASC employees, like Patrick Wagner who works in the ASC Operations office, said that he prefers physically going to work because it separates his work time from his home and family time.

“I prefer my office set-up and I prefer to talk to coworkers in person,” he said. “I am in the training office, so it is always much easier and more personable to assist/help in person. Lastly, I once made the comment to a former coworker, ‘You know why I don’t work from home? I don’t own my own business!”’

ASC supervisors and managers will determine how the hybrid work policy will work in their sections. So some sections where all or most employees will return to the office full time, other sections where they employ a hybrid approach, and other sections will continue to largely telework and only come to the office when needed.

There are tangible advantages to allowing ASC employees the freedom to telework at least part time.

According to the “Study in Labor Availability and Workforce Characteristics,” a study released by the Quad City Chamber of Commerce, the average one-way commute here is 16 minutes. This means if an employee teleworks three days a week, they will spend 1 hour and 4 minutes driving to and from work, as opposed to 2 hours and 40 minutes if they go to the office five days a week.

Over an average year, the time not spent commuting really starts to add up. A hybrid ASC employee teleworking three days a week will spend an average of 55.46 hours commuting in one year, as opposed to 138.66 hours if they come to the office every day. This shows an 83.2 hours difference – more than two work weeks spent in traffic when coming to the office 5 days a week.

Also, by teleworking a few days a week, employees will save money on gas as well as wear and tear on their car. According to the website “gasprices.aaa.com,” as of March 11, the average price of gas in the Quad Cities was $3.96 a gallon. On the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, gas prices are about $.30-$.50 a gallon higher.

While some employees are embracing the change, and some would prefer to go back to the pre-COVID-19 way of working, some members of the ASC leadership, such as Mr. Sannito, believe it is necessary for ASC to adapt in order to retain and recruit new talent.

“If we want to remain an effective and viable employer for U.S. citizens, we ourselves are going to have to adapt and come to terms with that balance,” said Sannito.

“Or we as an organization will suffer in the near term as we try to figure it out.”