Skip to main content

Government to expand 'unscheduled telework' when it snows

By Kelly Marshall Smoot, CNN
  • Government will allow more workers to work from home during snow storms
  • "Telework" new option for federal employees
  • New rules will roll out over time for each agency

Washington (CNN) -- Winter's chill is already being felt across much of the country and in Washington that brings back memories of last year's record snowfall and the five day near-government shutdown that came with it.

But if snow does shut down the streets in the capital region this winter, more government work will continue, just not actually in the office.

Some federal employees were able to work from home last year but the government wants to make it possible for more employees to work from home if and when necessary.

"The need for this is clear," said U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director John Barry during Wednesday's announcement. "Nobody has forgotten 'Snowmaggedon,'" he said.

Due to the record snowfall, many companies were forced to close for a portion or all of the week. Employees were stuck in their homes, many roads went unplowed, and DC Metro trains ran only on below-ground tracks, cutting off those from Virginia and parts of the District of Columbia and Maryland who might have been willing to brave the weather to try and get to work.

Barry said, "Unscheduled telework is a new option for federal employees to telework, to the extent possible, when severe weather conditions or other circumstances disrupt commuting."

He explained that the new telework rules will be rolled out over time and will not cover everyone. Each government agency will need to determine which employees can and cannot sign up to telework.

In those cases where collective bargaining agreements cover employment contracts, those agencies will have to discuss the new rules with the unions and come to an agreement of how to best implement them. The agencies will also have to ensure they have the information technology resources and infrastructure for additional teleworkers.

Those people who are designated as emergency employees by their agency will still be required to report to their offices. According to OPM guidelines, emergency employees are "critical to agency operations (including security and infrastructure)... and will be expected to work."

The new rules are a result of the "Telework Enhancement Act of 2010," signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 9, which requires federal agencies to establish policies allowing certain employees to work remotely.