Federal snow day marks start of Telework Week

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Monday is a snow day for federal offices in the Washington region, so the timing couldn’t be better for the start of Telework Week, an annual initiative to promote remote work options.

Telework proponents say federal agencies can still be productive when their employees are set up to work away from the office. But it also leads to disparity among workers.

How is that?

Many federal employees sign contracts that require them to work remotely on designated days. Those who happen to be scheduled for telework on Monday and those whose contracts call for them to telework during closures will have to do their jobs while many of their colleagues take time off.

National Park Service employees dig out the Lincoln Memorial in February 2010. (Linda Davidson/AP).
National Park Service employees dig out the Lincoln Memorial in February 2010. (Linda Davidson/AP).

Telework agreements are somewhat of a compromise for workers. The benefits include saving time and money on commutes, as well as greater flexibility with taking care of daily obligations. But the drawback is having to work when federal offices are closed, generally unless childcare, eldercare or loss of electricity prevents them from doing their jobs.

Basically, telework employees often miss out on paid time off during snow days, but their agencies are more productive because of the arrangement.

Telework Week, which takes place this year from March 3-7, is organized by Mobile Work Exchange, a public-private partnership encouraging workplaces to embrace remote work options.

Participation in the initiative has grown in recent years. About 136,000 workers — 82 percent of whom were feds — pledged to take part in 2013, according to Mobile Work Exchange. But the group rounded up more than 146,000 pledges this year.

Mobile Work Exchange estimates that employees who participate in Telework Week 2014 will save a combined $12.2 million in commuting costs, or $84 per employee, during the duration of the effort.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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