Do You Telework on Snow Days?

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 7 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #181059

    Terrence Hill

    I am one of those teleworkers that continues working, regardless of the weather. Sometimes, it’s a lonely existence, since a lot of employees still do not telework.

    There are certain employees that have to go to work, regardless of the weather (e.g. Park Rangers, Secret Service Agents, Border Patrol, TSOs, Air Traffic Controllers, etc.), but if you are an office worker, do you telework when government offices are closed? If not, why not? If you do, what can make the experience better for you?

    For me, the experience would be better if more of my co-workers also teleworked. Also, it would be more productive if we didn’t cancel meetings and discussions. Instead, we should be using webcasting and collaboration tools like Lync to stay in touch, regardless of the weather.

    What do you think? Are you a dedicated teleworker or a traditional office worker? Is anyone out there?

  • #181085

    Steve Ressler

    Really good question

  • #181083

    Terrence Hill

    Thanks Steve! Today’s Government Closure is occuring on the 3-year anniversary of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (December 10, 2010), when telework was first introduced as an option during government closure and dismissal announcements. It has resulted in better continuity of operations and improved the safety of employees who no longer have to struggle with traffic to get to the office. I hope that all the teleworkers out there are showing support for telework, especially on days like today!

  • #181081

    William Thomas

    Thanks for raising this Terry. It’s a snowy day here in the Washington DC area, and the federal government is closed. Except for teleworkers. Maybe.

    I looked up the telework guidance for my agency, and it was not all that clear as to whether I am required to telework as a situational teleworker on a day the government is closed due to weather. It says I “may” telework, and am “encouraged” to telework. But, it seems, I am not required to telework unless I had previously arranged with my supervisor to telework. I’m teleworking anyway, as I have a bunch of training to do, and this is a nice time to get it out of the way before the end of the year.

    I have worked hard with my staff to ensure we are all telework ready. But some have now opted out, saying that they do not want to be able to telework as they find it unfair that they would have to telework when everyone else got the day off if the government should close. It seems a fair point. If you are prepared to telework, should that mean you have to work when others get a day off?

    — Bill

  • #181079

    Terrence Hill

    Thanks for your support of telework Bill, and showing the example for your employees. Studies show that about 10% of employees choose not to telework. This percentage is slowing diminishing over time. I don’t have any issue with these non-believers and don’t begrudge them taking the day off, especially since they have to contend with the commute every other day of the year.

    My issue is with those who want it both ways – who telework when it is convenient for them, but want a free day off when the Government is closed. You can’t have it both ways!

  • #181077

    David B. Grinberg

    Roger that, Terry, you are not alone.

    I’m teleworking today per the OPM guidance and my agency telework agreement. The government needs a contingent workforce not only for snow days but for any emergency situation that shuts down normal federal agency operations. For the anti-telework crowd out there I would say this:

    • Today you have a paid day off, however, teleworkers do not. We are the ones “holding down the fort” and glad to do it.
    • Moreover, in case you haven’t noticed, this is the 21 century Information Age. You can run but can’t hide from new IT advancements in today’s mobile/digital world — so get with the program.
    • All feds who are “telework eligible” should transition to “telework ready” asap. Just in case.

    Bottom line: telework simply makes good business sense and is an operational necessity for any organization to remain effective, efficient and productive in today’s mobile/digital world.

    What I’d like to see more of is all federal agencies fully embracing telework, like mine does, to the maximum extent possible. Folks should understand that the days of an all brick-and-mortar workplace are going the way of the dinosaur.

    I’d also appreciate some respect and gratitude from all the detractors of telework who refuse to get onboard and/or bad mouth remote work because they don’t like it or won’t do it for whatever reason.

    Three cheers for remote work!

  • #181075

    Terrence Hill

    I’m with you 100% David! I think that we have finally reached the “Tipping Point” for Telework.

  • #181073

    Lauren Lane

    Terry – this is a great topic! I’m a consultant for a federal agency and, as part of my contract, I’m allowed/strongly encouraged to continue work from home even when my client is not. I echo the “three cheers for remote work” comment and so does my management consulting firm, Corner Alliance! I love having the flexibility to work from home and find I’m more efficient. In fact, I just wrote a blog on it.

    That being said, I feel increasingly frustrated at canceled meetings and the lack of (or delayed) communication with my client/team members in these instances. It’s assumed consultants will power through short set backs such as these to maintain momentum for the client. In most cases, however, that is difficult without equal participation. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this conundrum and how we can improve it?

  • #181071

    Terrence Hill

    I’m with you on the cancellations Lauren. It defeats the purpose of working remotely. Here is what I recommend:

    • Make it a habit to always webcast meeting and use online collaboration tools for everyday communications.
    • Commit to holding meetings “rain or shine.” Since you are using the technology, it shouldn’t matter what the weather is.

    Good luck and make sure to collaborate with your client on expectations before hand.

    Glad to see our contractor partners are also advocates for telework!

  • #181069

    Katharine Greenlee

    Terry, great question and one that we receive often at ICMA.

    For those who are interested in how to improve conditions to make teleworking a more attractive option, I have pulled some resources from ICMA’s Knowledge Network.

    • The Telework Program Overview of the City of Austin, TX includes frequently asked questions that supervisors have regarding telework and effectively managing telework employees.
    • Loudoun County, VA was recognized by the Telework Exchange for their outstanding telework program and they discuss the keys to their success in this article.
    • One way to improve teleworking conditions is to hire experienced and skilled teleworkers. This recent blog post discusses the “Top 5 Questions Employers Should Ask A Telecommuting Employee During An Interview
    • The Telecommuter’s Guide” is a document produced by the City of Mercer Island, WA that includes a questionnaire for employees and supervisors to take to make sure they are on the same page about teleworking as well as a list of suggestions to make employees more comfortable with telework arrangements.

    I hope these documents give those who are hesitant about teleworking or who are looking to develop a culture of telework some guidance. In addition to the documents posted here there are many great articles, blog posts, and documents about telework in general that can be found on the Knowledge Network.


    Katharine Greenlee

    Community Engagement Manager, Knowledge Network


    [email protected]


  • #181067

    Julie Chase

    No. We just hope it snows enough so when we call the installation emergency line, we are told not to come in….and mark “admin leave” on our time. Semi industrial and production cannot telework. It would be difficult to put an H53 or an AV8 Harrier in our back yard to work on. lol lol lol

    A two hour delay is not bad either. In the south, if it should snow, everything comes to a stand still.

  • #181065


    I like working at home, but there are still real problems with the IT and expectations about working during general emergencies. My best “telework” days involve NO IT and are regular workdays when the kids are in school and there are no distractions, no phone ringing, no office visitors. I stay at home with a big huge document to edit, best in hard copy. I can get it done in half the time.

    BUT here is a A REAL dose of reality for you folks…..

    1. My agency simply refuses to supply us all with decent equipment to take home. At home I have a small netbook PC and a slow wireless printer — both purchased several years ago. They work fine for my own personal use. I can’t afford to buy new stuff now and I will be GD if I have to do it just for work. This is a general problem which could be alleviated at least somewhat by giving us all laptops instead of office desktops (which is a new Dell with a nice large screen and the most up to date software by the way).

    2. Me paying for faster broadband access just for work. Nope, I can’t afford it.We have had to downsize over the last few years. Neither my wife or I have has had a pay raise in three years, and getting a lousy 1% this year is almost a joke. Really, we don’t have cable TV or a home phone anymore either. Its a basic cell phone and a data plan. We have had to make-do with basic level speeds for regular home access, but it sucks when my PC has to be in terminal mode to access my PC at the office. Getting the kind of speed I need for my work requires another $600.00 a year — no thanks. My telecommunications bill is down to $100.00 a month, just for basic Internet broadband and cell lines for us all, and that seems excessive. $1,200 a year.. is not cheap.

    3. When the government closes most of us also have to deal with the fallout from the storm at home. The government closes not only for the good of the government, but because its employees may be facing real issues at home. Many of us have to de-ice and shovel out driveways. Schools are closed and kids are home and have to be taken care of. No daycare either. During Isabelle we had trees down on our house, no water and no electricity. So teleworking during general weather related emergencies should remain OPTIONAL, not required.

    4. Teleworking to meetings? Ha! What a joke! Where I work this consists of a conference call where I can’t see what everyone else can, can’t hear half the people in the room, don’t have access to hard copies and there is no thought for real meeting software. Plus, I am not even sure it would work on my Internet connection. If something is sensitive or classified, the open phone line is useless.

    5. I have been working at home on a sporadic basis for 25 years. No telework agreement was ever required. My supervisor OK’d it in advance and knew what I was/am doing, but I wasn’t expected to do it during snowstorms and I wasn’t expected to buy equipment or services above what I otherwise need for my own personal use. Now it seems I have to have an agreement, and that agreement specifies that I have to practically buy myself the equipment of a home office. This is ridiculous.

  • #181063

    William Thomas

    Here we are on another snow day in the DC area, and I am teleworking. It snowed 5 inches here yesterday (1/21), and the federal government was closed. It’s 9F out there now & there is a 2 hr delay or leave or telework. As I sit here trying to stay warm with coffee, a wool sweater, stocking cap, & my winter sleeping bag, I have a few questions I’m hoping folks out there can help me with…
    1) Yesterday the government was closed. Since I’m telework ready, did I either have to telework or take leave? If conditions at home were not conducive to telework (dealing with kids out of school, shoveling snow, dealing with household issues) do I get the gov closed admin leave, or do I have to take leave?
    2) Do I have to do my telework under my regular work hours, or can I start & stop telework anytime during the day, as long as the hours add up? That is, starting earlier than I would start at the office, and working later due to time not working during the day to deal with household issues.
    3) What employee to supervisor communication is required during teleworking? Do I need to tell my supervisor (via email) that I am commencing work? Do I need to communicate when my telework day ends? Do I need to send a list of work I intend to do, then another of what I accomplished?

  • #181061

    Terrence Hill

    1) This varies according to your agency, job, etc., but basically, the expectation is that telework-ready employees telework when federal offices are closed. Your agency may grant exceptions, for instance if you have no power. All of us have to shovel snow, deal with school closings, etc.).

    2) Again, check with your agency. Some agencies have flexible work schedules which allow you to vary your schedule daily. These help, especially for teleworkers with children or who need to take breaks to shovel snow.

    3) Communication between supervisors and employees needs to be BEFORE an incident, including expectations in the event of a closing or delayed arrival. It also needs to be documented in the telework agreement and included in training. Also, employees need to notify supervisors of their status for events like yesterday and today and stay in touch during the day using unified communications. Having a list of daily accomplishments for teleworkers is only OK if those who work in offices also have the same requirement. If not, this is not a good management practice and is counter to the intent of the Telework Enhancement Act.

    Hope this helps! Looks like you need to sit down to discuss this with your supervisor. Good luck and enjoy the flexibility that comes with telework. Just remember that flexibility goes both ways.

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