We the Partnership

How Federal Executive Boards played a key role in supporting the federal workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Victoria Schaefer
April 8, 2021

Approximately 85% of all federal employees work outside of the Washington, D.C., area. Federal Executive Boards—established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to coordinate the activities of federal offices outside the capital—support these employees. Located in 28 areas with significant federal populations across the country, these boards:

  1. Maintain intergovernmental and strategic partnerships with public and private organizations.
  2. Provide professional development opportunities to federal employees.
  3. Coordinate and share emergency notifications, as appropriate, to area agency directors and assist agencies with emergency preparedness.

These activities—particularly the third one—played a critical role in helping federal agencies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic began to spread throughout the U.S. in March 2020, Federal Executive Boards were among the first in the federal government to share governmentwide guidance on available telework flexibilities to enable agency leaders to adjust employee work patterns in the interest of public safety. As the situation evolved, the boards continued to provide real-time information to federal agencies to help them navigate their new work environments.

“We quickly organized online meetings to meet the needs for fact-based information of Bay Area agencies,” said Sara Russell, executive director of the San Francisco Federal Executive Board. “We also added many training opportunities on how to conduct effective video meetings and shared best practices for managing a full-time teleworking staff.”

According to the Federal Executive Board Network Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, boards across the country “served as a convening resource” that enabled agency leaders to discuss their pandemic-related concerns and share best practices as the year went on.

“We have received countless thank-you’s since the pandemic started for the board’s timely website content, meetings and email updates that regional leaders were able to share with their staff, alleviating each agency’s need to create similar documents,” Russell said. “We’re also pivoting to holding forums for agencies to learn from each other about how they are preparing to return to the office.”

Like the agencies they support, Federal Executive Boards also had to adapt their work to the coronavirus pandemic. Awards ceremonies, leadership development training sessions and board meetings became online events. But the accelerated pace and stressful environment did not prevent the boards from carrying out their mission to support regional employees. Instead, these challenges drove the boards to deliver even better results.

In a year filled with new challenges and adversity, the Federal Executive Boards provided federal employees around the country with quality information, an opportunity to connect with their peers, critical professional development, personal care resources and more.

Click here to learn more about Federal Executive Boards and their locations.


Victoria Schaefer