Earlier this year, top leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began a monumental task: turning the sprawling, labyrinthine organization known for its highly specialized, academically focused scientific research into a sleek, flexible public health response agency primed to serve the American public. It’s an attempt to keep the CDC from repeating the mistakes it made while responding to covid-19.
But agency veterans, outside public health officials, and workplace organization experts said the current workplace structure could be a major barrier to that goal. Like directors before her, agency head Dr. Rochelle Walensky spends a considerable amount of time away from the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. The agency has also embraced a workplace flexibility program that has allowed most of its scientists to stay remote.
As of October, 10,020 of the CDC’s 12,892 full-time employees — 78% of the full-time workforce — were allowed to work remotely all or part of the time, according to data that KHN obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.