By Judith Welles
The year ahead poses challenges and opportunities, a common pattern in recent years but with some twists.
Some changes are inevitable. I predict that telework will take off in the next year or two, and at least 50 percent of feds will work from home part of the time.
Government will continue to go digital, in ways we have not seen before. Younger feds will take it in that direction with savvy help from experienced feds.
Women will get some form of paid maternity leave like the private sector and paternity leave for dads, too.
Raises set by the president and promotions given by managers won’t get much better, but there will still be bonuses.
Federal jobs will continue to have a level of stress but more will find their way to fitness centers or take long walks around the block.
I, too, will be making some changes. Six years ago, Federal Computer Week asked me to write a work life column, which I titled “Get a Life.” With the advent of blogging three years ago, I started to blog about federal work life too. Yes, it’s been that long.
The column began by asking you, the reader, for topics you wanted. Your responses centered on concerns about stress at work and questions about changing jobs or preparing to retire.
I have sought the research and advice of experts, reviewed their books, and shared their tips and some of my views. Topics have ranged from whistle-blowing and emergency preparedness to dealing with email, telework, toxic bosses, getting ahead, networking, retirement, succession planning, stress and more stress.
I will continue to write about work and life, but no longer for Federal Computer Week. You see, there is a life after government, and mine has taken me back to journalism, passing through PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM on the way. Also, my book on local history, Cabin John: Legends and Life of an Uncommon Place, was published last year.
I have enjoyed looking into and writing about matters that concern you, and even more, receiving your often provocative comments. So I thank you!
Best wishes to you for the holidays and New Year 2010. I hope you will stay well and Get a Life!
Posted on Dec 16, 2009 at 6:59 PM1 comments
First the bad news: In just four years, half of the permanent full-time federal workforce will be eligible to retire. What’s more, a majority of the retirees will be supervisors, according to the Merit Systems Protection Board in a new report.
Now the good news: Think of the opportunity this gives federal agencies to put a new stamp on their entire workforce.
Because supervisors tend to be older with more years of service, MSPB researchers believe, they are likely to retire at faster rates than other employees. They will leave big holes, if not shoes, to fill.
But in its report, “As Supervisors Retire: An Opportunity to Reshape Organizations” , MSPB also sees rich potential in this workforce change.
The report discusses how the next generation of supervisors will have to demonstrate a different set of competencies than may have been needed in the past.
The way work is accomplished and the nature of supervision is becoming more complex in the information age. More federal jobs are becoming knowledge-based, and information technology workers are among the critical knowledge workers.
According to the MSPB, this changes what supervisors should be doing and calls for different duties, skills, training and recruitment strategies. A knowledge-based workforce requires greater supervisory flexibilities, such as telework, and improved supervisory communication.
The report recommends that agencies use the retirement wave as an impetus to recruit supervisors capable of managing a modern workplace. For example, competency in supervising independent, educated and internally motivated workers should be assessed when selecting supervisors.
But the report concludes that, in order to engage employees, supervisors must also have strong management support and the time to devote to supervision.
Posted on Dec 04, 2009 at 6:59 PM8 comments
Feds can be thankful. The engine of government is throttling along even as some retire and others are hired.
As my previous blogs have outlined, hiring can now include retired federal workers who will continue their annuity with no reduction in salary when they return part-time to government jobs.
Other changes in the recently enacted 2010 Defense Authorization bill will benefit feds thinking about retirement. Those covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System will receive credit toward their retirement annuity for unused sick leave. Those who retire before 2014 will receive credit for half of their unused sick time while others will receive full credit at the start of 2014.
Retired FERS employees who return to government jobs will be able to add back any contributions they may have taken out when they left government so that their retirement benefits can continue to grow.
Like FERS employees, the new law would allow Civil Service Retirement System employees who are working part time to have their full-time equivalent salary used to compute their retirement. Before, CSRS employees would have their High-3 salary computation based on their lower part-time salary if they worked less than 40 hours. Now, the High-3 will be based on their full-time rate even though they are working part time.
OK, not everything has changed that we might want. There is still no pretax health benefits for retirees and no change in the windfall provisions (GPO and WEP) that reduce any earned Social Security benefits based on the annuities of CSRS retirees.
Still, changes that did occur show that federal employees have garnered supporters and allies in the Congress for the work they do. Those allies deserve thanks, too. Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted on Nov 18, 2009 at 6:59 PM2 comments
Judging from the comments I’ve received on my recent blog post about “bridge retirements,” the idea of allowing retirees to return to government jobs part-time with no loss of annuity is a winner. In response, I looked for more details on the provision in the recently-enacted 2010 Defense Authorization Act, especially on any limitations.
First, the provision takes effect immediately. Agencies have the authority right now, with the bill’s enactment, to hire federal retirees without any reduction in salary to offset pension benefits.
But in reality, how quickly agencies act on that authority will depend on whether they have vacancies to fill, funding to use and a need for people with critical skills. Agencies also might want to wait until the Office of Personnel Management provides some guidance.
No one should wait too long, however. In the next five years, 60 percent of federal employees will be eligible to retire. Agencies may need to use the new provision and hire skilled retirees sooner than they thought.
“This is among many tools available to enable agencies to respond to workforce needs and fill critical positions” said Dan Adcock, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employee association. NARFE and the Federal Managers Association advocated strongly for the retirement changes in the bill.
Adcock spelled out the specific limits on hours a re-hired retiree can work without any salary offset. The legislation permits no more than 520 hours during the first six months of service; no more than 1,040 hours in any 12 month period; and no more than 3,020 hours as a lifetime limit. Basically, that’s part-time work for three years.
Some agencies already have programs allowing retirees to be rehired without a salary offset for an annuity, but only with a waiver from OPM.
The largest current program is at the Defense Department which, under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, provided the Pentagon with specific re-employment authorities, including the ability to waive salary offsets without going to OPM. The defense program limits appointments to 2,087 hours (that adds up to one year full-time service or two years part-time).
Posted on Nov 10, 2009 at 6:59 PM3 comments
If you are planning to retire at the end of the year, or if you could retire but the economy has made you unsure, there are things you need to know.
Among several significant changes in federal retirement rules, the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill signed by President Barack Obama allows federal retirees to return to government for limited, part-time appointments without reducing their annuities.
Not all agencies will decide to put aside funds for such appointments. But offices in which retirements are leaving needed skills unfilled are likely to take advantage of the new authority.
What, you say? Why retire and then starting working again at same kind of job? The income boost from part-time work on top of a pension would be an obvious plus. But there are also distinct health benefits that may be even more important.
A national study published by the American Psychological Association finds that there are fewer major diseases and mental health problems for retirees who transition from full-time work into temporary or part-time jobs.
In fact, people who make a “bridge employment” transition between a full-time career and full retirement actually function better day to day than people who stop working altogether.
All of this is good news to baby boomers who have already become known for wanting to be active and continue working after retirement. The new government authority for part-time work after retirement may help those already retired find what they have been seeking. And for those still working, but on the fence about whether to retire, it may provide another incentive.
The findings are reported in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Researchers used data from 12,189 participants who were between the ages of 51 and 61. The participants were interviewed every two years over a six-year period beginning in 1992 about their health, finances, employment history, and work or retirement life.
People whose post-retirement jobs were related to their previous careers reported better mental health than those who were fully retired or who worked in jobs outside of their career field. This may be because retirees who take jobs not related to their career may experience more stress in adapting to different job conditions.
The authors suggest that retirees carefully consider their choice of post-retirement employment. So if you can snag a part-time job doing what you used to do, why not try government again?
Posted on Nov 03, 2009 at 6:59 PM15 comments
A new workplace survey found that happiness on the job still depends largely on the relationship with the boss, with 89 percent of workers saying that is an important factor in their job satisfaction.
Unfortunately, 53 percent of workers don’t think their boss is honest. In this time of recession, the lack of trust leads one quarter of employees to believe their boss is dishonest about their job security. The relationships are so bad that 28 percent of workers would even lay off/fire their boss if given the option, according to the survey, fielded by Harris Interactive on behalf of Adecco, a workforce recruiting company.
At the same time, it is not all bad news for managers as the majority (65 percent) of employees would not change anything about the relationship they have with their bosses. That could mean that they have found a way to work it out in the current situation or they are willing to suffer through it.
What do older employees know that others do not? A significantly greater percentage of Generation Y, the younger millennial generation workers, trusts their managers to promote their work internally and grow their career compared to Baby Boomers or Generation X.
At the same time, only one of four baby boomers responding to the survey indicated they would want their manager’s job in contrast, to one of two younger workers.
A lot has been written about toxic bosses. A new book, Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, touts being the “ultimate guide” to managing your boss. The book, written by a Harvard psychotherapist and a business strategist, identifies different types of difficult bosses and cross-matches different types of employee personalities.
The book provides many detailed examples to suggest ways to handle a variety of boss/employee relationships depending on various personality types of your boss and you. With a mixing and matching of types, this book is not light reading.
Regardless of whether you mesh with your boss or not, there are times when relationships can’t be fixed. Trying to prove yourself to a boss who can’t be pleased or who believes he or she knows best will leave you feeling constantly defeated. The authors point out that may be the time to move on.
Posted on Oct 27, 2009 at 6:59 PM3 comments
Every open season, the need for some way to hold down health costs hits home for federal employees. Health costs keep rising along with federal employee health insurance premiums, and more than a little bit.
Open season for changes to federal employee health insurance will be Nov. 9 to Dec. 14.
Premium increases for 2010 will average 8.8 percent. As one approach, federal employee unions would like the Office of Personnel Management to bear a greater share of the costs.
Blue Cross will have the largest increases: 12 percent for family coverage and 15 percent for self-only. Roughly 60 percent of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program’s more than eight million participants are covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard or basic plans. Premiums increased 13 percent last year.
OPM also announced increases in premiums for the federal dental and vision coverage program. Dental premiums will climb by an average 4.2 percent, while the vision program will see a 2.4 percent increase in premiums.
Other health news this month concerns federal employees. FedsGetFit is a new effort by OPM to raise awareness of federal employees to a healthy lifestyle. Given health care costs, there is more than one reason to stay healthy.
The first of three planned events is a Fitness Expo/Walk to be held at 12 noon on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009, on the National Mall. The program will include an optional one-mile walk at 11:30 a.m. along the Mall. An expo will highlight agency work life programs.
If you haven’t heard about this yet from your human resource offices, you will soon, because OPM instructed FedsGetFit officials to join the walk on the Mall. The awareness campaign, which begins in October with the theme of fitness, will focus on nutrition in November and healthy choices in December.
Meanwhile, staying fit could have retirement rewards. The Defense Authorization conference report included allowing workers under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) to get credit for unused sick leave, a right employees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) already have. It will be phased in over four years with a 50 percent credit through Dec. 31, 2013, and a 100 percent credit beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The Congress is expected to approve it.
Posted on Oct 21, 2009 at 6:59 PM0 comments
It’s that time when many people think about whether they will change jobs or, if eligible, perhaps retire at the end of the year.
Some managers say that the process of finding and getting another government job involves more than how well you write your resume or application. It requires taking advantage of opportunities in your current position.
The view of one manager, who recently retired after a 30-plus year career, is that there are many ways to prepare for change by building your skills and expanding your contacts in your present job.
“You need to take advantage of opportunities such as work groups or task forces where people come together from other programs and agencies,” said Spencer Schron, who retired last January as a technical advisor in the Office of External Affairs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Work groups give exposure to other people and perspectives and, when staffers from other agencies are involved, perhaps to other jobs. “By networking in work groups, you can also develop secondary and tertiary contacts and broaden your knowledge of other program areas. Sort of the ‘six degrees of separation’ idea,” he added.
Schron hired dozens of employees and added hundreds of people to workgroups, forums and teams during his career. Joining groups that develop is one approach to networking, but making your own group is another option, he said. For example, someone might propose an informal interagency workgroup to explore ways to improve a project or solve a problem.
On those knowledge and skill essays, or KSAs, Schron looked for people who demonstrated the ability to run with a situation and be creative. He wanted examples of how a person had overcome barriers or found a new solution to an old problem.
Schron is now an active volunteer, recently appointed to the Montgomery County, Md., Commission on Aging, which focuses on the health and welfare of older residents. In a way, it’s like joining another interagency work group, he said.
Any other ideas on ways to change jobs and move around in government?
Posted on Oct 14, 2009 at 6:59 PM0 comments