DLA director describes return-to-work plan in virtual town hall

By Beth Reece

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Defense Logistics Agency leaders are finalizing a return-to-work plan that balances employee safety with the agency’s warfighter support mission, DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams said during a live Town Hall via Facebook June 9.

On-site operations will resume in three phrases with employees at DLA Headquarters, major subordinate commands and regional commands entering each phase at a pace that coincides with local measures, he said.

“This is going to be a gradual, structured return to work. I don’t see, and I don’t think the Department of Defense sees, everyone returning to work at once,” he said, adding that the return will be condition and location based “And the thing that will be of paramount importance is the safety of our workforce.”

DLA leaders and supervisors will also take into account guidance of the units and organizations they serve, he continued. Employees in some offices will be asked to return in groups or on specific days of the week to enable those in confined spaces to maintain social distancing.

“Although your desks may not be 6 feet apart, some of the ways we’re looking at mitigating that is by not having everybody report during the same shift, by not having everyone working on the same day,” the director said.

Plans also give special consideration to employees at higher risk for developing complications with COVID-19, and Williams said individuals should discuss arrangements with their supervisors. The director also encouraged employees and supervisors to conduct organizational and personal risk assessments.

“If you’re not feeling well or a member of your family doesn’t feel well, and you don’t believe it’s in the best interest of this organization for you to come to work, my guidance to you as the director is to stay home,” he said.

Hand sanitizer, cloth face masks and cleaning supplies will be widely available Williams added, and cleaning and disinfection of restrooms, cafeterias and other common areas have also increased.

For personal protective equipment, the agency is providing at least two face coverings to every employee. Some employees will receive additional face coverings and personal protective equipment depending on their mission.

Williams assured employees they’ll be notified if they’ve been in contact with another employee who has tested positive for the virus though the method of notification will vary among staffs and locations. Protocols would also include professional cleaning of work spaces and 14-day quarantines to protect against further spread.

DLA’s ability to maintain the mission through telework has been “phenomenal” because leaders began investing in remote work capabilities over a decade ago, the general added. Of the 70% of DLA employees who were eligible for telework when the pandemic began, 75% had telework agreements. Almost all eligible employees had telework agreements by mid-April. Those not eligible include distribution process workers and quality assurance representatives among others.

“The jury is still out on whether or not we’ll increase the total number of routine telework days, but I can say with a great deal of certainty that we will take more advantage of situational telework,” he said.

While most employees could continue their mission while teleworking during COVID-19, that may not have been true for those who work in classified environments if the crisis had involved contingency operations with adversaries, Williams continued. DLA leaders are already considering options available in such a scenario.

Recognizing employees’ desire to stay fit and fight stress, the director said he would consider reinstating DLA’s physical fitness program when the agency enters phase 3. He also acknowledged the racial tensions and unrest among Americans following the death of George Floyd. Williams said the Star-Spangled Banner, sung before the event by Sebrina Morris, wife of DLA Information Operations’ Chief of Staff Ken Morris, reminds him why he’s proud to be an American and proud to serve.

“This is a time of great reflection about what we need to do better as a nation. It’s also a time I would suggest that we look at the man or the woman in the mirror and ask what we can do as individuals,” he said. “I can assure you that at DLA we are committed to the improvement for all of our employees.”

An event replay is available on DLA’s Facebook page. To view with open captions, click on the sprocket in the lower right corner of the video screen and turn on captions. More information and updates on DLA’s coronavirus response are at www.dla.mil.