Federal government closes: Why can't they all work from home?(Read article summary)
All D.C.-area federal agencies were closed Monday after the snowstorm last weekend. Shutting down the federal government costs $100 million a day in lost productivity.
Jason Reed / Reuters
Talk about a budget freeze: The storm they call â€śSnowmageddonâ€ť has halted the federal government in its tracks.
With roads inside the Beltway impassable, and trains and buses running a minimum schedule, and schools closed, and crowds having snowball fights in Dupont Circle, and yeti wandering K Street (we made up that last one), all D.C.-area federal agencies were closed Monday. They might close Tuesday, as well.
Thereâ€™s another storm due Tuesday night, so it is possible that the government shutdown will last until the D.C. government unveils its secret snow-removal strategy, otherwise known as â€śspring.â€ť
The answer to that is, they do. At least, some of them do. About 9 percent of eligible federal employees have approved telework agreements that allow them to work from home, according to an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report from August 2009.
Thatâ€™s a little over 102,000 people. And Uncle Sam would like that figure to be higher.
â€śThey encourage it,â€ť says one federal employee with such an agreement, who requested anonymity. Heâ€™s tired of his name being misspelled.
For instance, the personnel office of the agency this employee works for has sent out a series of messages in recent days suggesting that everyone who has signed up to work via computer should do so.
Itâ€™s the government, though, so signing up for telecommuting is kind of an involved process. Youâ€™ve got to apply (tip: donâ€™t tell them about working from coffee shops), get your supervisor to sign on, and so forth.
Also, the Feds are coming a little late to the whole working-in-your-pajamas party, so they have yet to catch up to the private sector in this area. OPM is fully aware of this, and theyâ€™re trying to change as fast as they can.
Telework clearly aids productivity, said OPM director John Berry at a conference on the subject last September.
â€śIt needs to be part of the ethos of an office. No meeting or conference call should be canceled because someone is working from home,â€ť he said.
There is a catch, however. On days the federal government shuts down, teleworkers may have to labor anyway, while their commuting brethren get the day off.
â€śAgencies may require teleworkers to work when the agency is closed,â€ť notes OPMâ€™s handbook on emergency closure procedures.
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