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2 hour early closure for feds in DC area

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With a major snowstorm on the way, the Office of Personnel Management just announced offices in the Washington area will close two hours early today.

Your early departure should be tied to when your usual workday ends. That means that someone who would usually work until 5 p.m. today will go home at 3 p.m.; someone who works until 6 p.m. will go home at 4 p.m.

Emergency employees and teleworking employees are expected to remain on duty.

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Snow watch: Wednesday night could bring 5+ inches to DC

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Washington-area feds may want to get ready to telework on Thursday. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch that says snow could hit the nation’s capital, starting in the late afternoon Wednesday, and we could see five or more inches drop when all is said and done.

We won’t know until very early Thursday whether the snow will be enough to throw a wrench in the government’s operations. So it wouldn’t hurt feds who can telework to bring their laptop or a few files home Wednesday night just in case the Office of Personnel Management declares an unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework day.

OPM Director John Berry last month touted the new telework option as a way to keep the government operating as much as possible during moderately bad weather — for example, when some snowy roads are dangerous, but not snarled badly or widespread enough to warrant a complete government closure. The alternative for feds who can’t telework, but feel they can’t safely make it in to work, is to take a day of unscheduled leave. OPM’s already done this once this winter, and Berry said it worked out well.

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OPM declares unscheduled leave or telework for snowy Washington feds

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The Office of Personnel Management just changed the government’s status in the Washington area to “open with unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.” This means that if you want to leave early to beat the snowbound traffic, you’ll have to take leave, or telework once you get home to make up for the hours you’ll miss in the office.

UPDATE: Details from OPM’s announcement are after the jump (and it bears repeating that this does not include emergency employees, and unscheduled leave or telework is only an option people can take if they choose):

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Snow may snarl DC commutes

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Right on cue, Washington’s first actual snowfall of the season has arrived, a day after Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry outlined a new unscheduled teleworking option. The National Weather Service has a winter weather advisory in effect and is predicting 1 to 2 inches of snow.

(Yes, all you feds in South Dakota, I can hear you laughing from here.)

This could affect the afternoon rush hour, NWS said: “Be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities, and use caution when driving.” What NWS leaves politely unsaid is that DC drivers are legendary for forgetting how to drive during the slightest bit of snow. (In that respect, at least, Washington truly is a Southern city.) So be careful out there — with a bit of caution, there’s no reason to fear driving in the snow, but you never know if the driver one lane over has lost his mind.

This is the kind of scenario in which Berry said unscheduled telework could help. If an eligible federal employee’s kid’s school closes early — for instance, Fairfax County, Va. schools will close two hours early today — he could leave the office, meet his child at home, and telework for the rest of the day. (Feds who are concerned about lousy snowbound traffic could also leave early to beat the rush and make up the rest of their hours at home, he said.)

What do you think, feds? Does unscheduled telework sound like a good plan to you? Are you seeing any snow at your office yet?

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OPM downgrades snow losses, but do estimates hold water?

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berry 1 small jpgOffice of Personnel Management Director John Berry yesterday officially downgraded the government’s estimates of its per-day losses during last month’s snowstorms. Instead of  losing $102 million per day, Berry now says the government only lost $71 million per day. But there is reason to take those calculations with a grain of salt.

Berry first threw out the $102 million daily loss estimate during a December press conference on snow closure procedures. That was a rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation of the total daily payroll for all 270,000 federal employees in the Washington area, and assumed total losses in productivity.

That estimate was clearly too high. The government didn’t entirely shut down, even if the empty streets made it appear so. Emergency workers still had to show up – the National Weather Service, for example, rose to the occasion and worked around the clock. And there were some telework success stories at places like DISA and the Patent and Trademark Office.

However, quantifying the actual success of telework is much trickier.

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Berry: Telework, stagger schedules to ease DC traffic

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The Blizzard of 2010 is over, but piles of snow are still clogging some lanes in Washington and worsening the region’s already-abysmal traffic congestion. And agencies need to use workplace flexibilities to help ease that gridlock, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said yesterday.

In a memo to chief human capital officers and other human resource officials, Berry said agencies should continue to use telework as much as possible to take people off the roads. Berry also suggested agencies use alternative work schedules, or if possible, adjust employees’ work hours to stagger their arrivals and departures throughout the day.

“Be creative in helping your employees adapt to these unusual conditions while still doing the work of the United States government,” Berry said.

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Teleworkers: Fed Times wants to hear from you

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Did you telework during the snowstorm last week? Federal Times would like to talk to you and hear how well it went. Were you able to do some or all of your work without any major bumps? Were there tech problems that kept you from getting anything done? Or did your agency’s or manager’s restrictions on telework completely take that option off the table?

And managers, what was your experience managing your staff remotely last week? Was teleworking worthwhile, or just window dressing?

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. If you’d prefer we not use your name, that’s fine.

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Government to open on time Wednesday

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All federal employees in Washington will have their first full workday in nearly two weeks tomorrow. The Office of Personnel Management announced this afternoon that government offices will open on time Wednesday, and without an unscheduled leave option. So if you haven’t dug your car out yet, now may be the time.

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MSPB to extend deadlines due to blizzard

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The Merit Systems Protection Board said today it will grant deadline extensions to people who couldn’t file documents on time because of recent blizzards and government closures in Washington and other areas. MSPB Chairwoman Susan Grundmann said anyone filing a late petition for appeal, petition for review, case-related documents, pleading or other submissions will have to include a statement explaining that the delay was due to poor weather, closure of a federal office, or lack of access to MSPB’s e-Appeal Online Web page.

That last part is important, because there were tens of thousands of people in the Washington area who were without power for days after the blizzard.

MSPB won’t automatically grant leniency, however. The clerk of the board and regional and field office judges will review the statements and “exercise discretion” when deciding to accept a delayed filing. “Normally, when MSPB receives a late filing that does not include an explanation for the delay, it issues a show cause order,” the MSPB statement said. Grundmann’s “announcement allows MSPB to accept and acknowledge findings without issuing show cause orders in appropriate cases.”

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Federal government to open two hours late Friday

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The Office of Personnel Management just announced the federal government will open under a two-hour delay on Friday. Anyone who can’t make it into work can take unscheduled leave.

If you get to work any more than two hours late, you’ll be charged annual leave or leave without pay for the additional period of absence. But if you take unscheduled leave, you’ll be charged leave for the entire day — you won’t get the same two hours’ grace period other feds will get.

If you telework or are an emergency employee, you’ve got to start working on time.

OPM Director John Berry also issued a statement this evening that stressed most of the government is still operating, and many Washington-area feds are getting their jobs done through teleworking. Full statement after the jump:

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