With winter fast approaching, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) this week tweaked its inclement weather procedures for federal workers in the D.C. area. The changes – announced Tuesday at OPM’s annual briefing on weather-related dismissals and closures – include a new “delayed arrival” option, while also clarifying which employees must telework in the event of a full closure.

The latest “delayed arrival” option tells workers to stay off the roads until a designated time before commuting into work.

Unlike a delayed opening, the new option prevents people from commuting until weather conditions are safe. In such a scenario, OPM’s language would distinguish between the time commuters may safely travel and when federal offices will be open to the public.

Confused? OPM deputy director Dean Hunter puts it more simply: “[S]tay off the road until 9. Federal government will open at 11.”

Tuesday’s briefing also changed the language of OPM’s all-day closure policy. During a major snowstorm, for example, the announcement that “Federal Offices are Closed” will now include the sentence: “Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s policies.”

Hunter explained that the latter was necessary after OPM issued a confusing message on telework during closures related to Hurricane Sandy.

“The government doesn’t stop because there is snow or ice or other inclement weather,” said Thomas Richards, OPM’s communications director. “It’s really important that we encourage as many people to telework when the federal government buildings are closed.”

The 2012 modifications come one year after OPM introduced a staggered early dismissal policy. Those rules instructed employees to leave work by a certain time or else “shelter in place” until weather conditions improved.

OPM’s updated closure procedures are meant to keep workers safe and reduce road congestion during severe weather. Yet the broader goal is for the agency to communicate important time-sensitive information more effectively.

What do you think? Do you find these changes helpful or do they just create more confusion?


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