Snow brings telework snowball fight

In reality, snow and other emergencies are never simple affairs. In this case, the OPM declaration plopped into a stew of child care issues and work attitudes b...

Virtual private networks have ruined snow days.

Before the ubiquitous PC days, if snow kept you from getting to the office, there wasn’t much you could do. In declaring Tuesday a maximum telework day, though, the Office of Personnel Management signaled this is decidedly not an unscheduled leave opportunity for routine teleworkers.

For readers outside the D.C. area, we had, I don’t know, about 4 or 5 inches of snow on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The snow kept up through the night to Tuesday morning. It was fluffy stuff, but the roads were pretty bad Tuesday morning.

“Telework employees are expected to work,” OPM said. “Non-telework employees generally will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours they were scheduled to work.”

In reality, snow and other emergencies are never simple affairs. In this case, the OPM declaration plopped into a stew of child care issues and work attitudes bubbling in a soup of uncertainty over permanent telework policy.

“FOUR DAY WEEKEND BABY!!!” yelled one online forum commenter. Said another, “Pretty much the only downside of being 100% remote though.” That second person was correct, technically. Universal remote access and the advent of Zoom have rendered obsolete the idea that office = work. If you telework, what difference does the weather make?

Yes, but schools in the area also closed. Kiddos in the house can wreck the most elaborate teleworking routine.

“Most of the parents in our office will take some unscheduled leave (which leadership is liberal with),” said one federal mom, whose husband is also teleworking. She said they’ll take turns supervising a six-year-old, whom she said is happily occupied with Legos for an hour at a time — and she has new Lego sets tucked away just for occasions like this.

“Yeah, I still have to like, feed him, but I have to feed myself too on a normal telework day, so it’s not that much different,” she said. I can just about smell the macaroni and cheese. An apparent COVID-forced teleworker, she added, “Teleworking with a six-year-old for a day or two is much easier than teleworking with a 2-year-old for 5 months.”

Several comments analogized management reaction to unscheduled leave or low output to various parts of the body I can’t really mention here. One boss was a blankety-blank about it; another wouldn’t break people’s blankety-blanks (a good thing).

OPM’s statement that non-telework employees would get a bit of leave drew some contrasting comments.

“One of the few times it stinks to always telework as there’s no free day off,” said one teleworker. Another said, “I’ve never been happier not to be a teleworker!”

Agencies seem to follow their own lights when it comes to elaborating their specific implementations of OPM’s office closures. On the question of unscheduled leave, one commenter asked, “I’m a little miffed the official OPM guidance didn’t mention it.” Another rejoined with a list of directives his agency had issued days earlier. It included this: “Employees have the option (with supervisory approval) to telework the entire workday (without delayed arrival), use unscheduled leave, or use a combination of unscheduled telework and unscheduled leave.”

Some feds tried to parse out the OPM directive in nearly Talmudic detail: “To those who are teleworking today when you would normally be in, does this count as an in-office day or do you have to come in another day?” one person asked.

Someone answered, “Depends if supervisor is a jerk or not.”


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