OPM takes heat for snow closure procedures

By Allison Keyes

WASHINGTON — People are still cleaning up after the blizzard of 2016, and the Office of Personnel Management is still taking guff for its decision to open three hours late twice last week, causing a traffic nightmare of epic proportions.

As Mike Causey of our sister station WFED noted in his column, not only did that extend rush hour, it made driving in an already challenging city for traffic even more of a nightmare. But he says he wasn’t criticizing OPM for its handling of such a storm, because if it doesn’t shut down, “people complain and panic, and there’s property damage to cars and things.”

The Capital News Service put together a chart showing that the federal government is more likely to cancel for snow these days. In 2002, there were 10.3 inches of snow per day closed or delayed, compared with last year, when there were just 1.42 inches of snow per day closed or delayed.

But that may be partly due to a push for more telework. In the agency’s dismissal and closure procedures for the 2015-16 winter season,  OPM’s acting director Beth Cobert said that managers should continue to promote telework as a way for their employees to work remotely during an emergency, and ensure continuity of operations.

“Given recent agency actions to improve cybersecurity practices,” she wrote, “we strongly encourage agencies to take steps to ensure that telework-ready employees are prepared to effectively telework and access agency IT systems and networks, as may be necessary, should an emergency or weather condition so warrant.”

An OPM spokesman told Politico that a 2015 survey found that 72 percent of federal employees are eligible to work from home, up from 59 percent in 2011.

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