Telework directive for Nuclear Security Summit signals changing times

Once-controversial option may be finding support

The Office of Personnel Management is urging agencies to use telework and other alternatives to keep government operations running smoothly during the Nuclear Security Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C. April 12 and 13.

OPM director John Berry issued a memo on April 7 urging federal employees who can work at home or an alternative site to do so, in accordance with their agencies’ telework and alternative work policies. The memo, along with the success of telework during the blizzards of December 2009 and February of this year, suggest that the federal government's wariness about telework may finally be beginning to ease.

Federal employees who work in downtown D.C. are expected to encounter significant commuting delays and travel disruptions on Monday, April 12 ,and Tuesday, April 13, due to road closures, mass transit changes, motorcades and the establishment of security perimeters.

President Barack Obama will meet with the heads of state of more than 40 nations at the summit, which is designed to enhance international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism. The historical event, taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, will be one of the world’s largest gatherings of heads of state.


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“Accordingly, OPM strongly urges the use of telework and alternative work schedules to keep the government operating while helping to minimize traffic congestion and unproductive time during the nuclear security summit,” Berry’s memo states

OPM doesn’t have a list of agencies that might be affected by the road closures and other traffic situations. However, “we’re certainly encouraging agencies to take advantage of telework” opportunities, an OPM spokesman said.

Record-breaking snow storms this winter provided federal managers with the opportunity to test business continuity and telework plans, said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange, a group that promotes teleworking.

There appears to be more of a sense of urgency by federal agencies to develop robust telework plans because the Obama Administration is focusing on this area. Plus, weather conditions such as the blizzard of 2010 and events like the Nuclear Security Summit impact workers’ mobility, she said.

“There is a greater energy from the [federal] community because of the administration’s focus and director Berry’s real push for making sure that" federal managers support more telework, Auten said.

Approximately 102,900 federal employees currently do some teleworking. OPM officials want to increase the number by 50 percent of eligible employees by 2011, according to a strategic plan released March 15. The strategic plan sets goals from 2010 through 2015 and was drafted as a road map for federal employees.

Many federal employees commenting weather-related stories across the Web in the aftermath of the snow storms were outraged at how federal agencies did not have the technology, policies or management strategies in place to keep feds online and productive.

Tom Simmons, area vice president for Federal Government Systems with Citrix, said that he has seen more of an interest by agencies to put the plans and infrastructure in place to allow employees to telework.

Citrix has worked on developing telework infrastructures for the General Services Administration, Defense Information Systems Agency, and the State and Treasury departments.

“All of those organizations have sizable employee populations downtown that commute” and would be affected by Metro stop and road closures, he said.

“I haven’t heard of any of those organizations that have said: ‘don’t come in, work from home.’ But their telework infrastructure would certainly enable them to do that,” Simmons said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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