(Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

Based on the official guidance issued Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget, we now have clearer answers to some important questions:

Question: If we have to close, how long should an “orderly shutdown” last?

Answer: It should take “no more than three or four hours” for furloughed federal employees to send out notices to outside groups or individuals they work with, to update contact information, secure work files, fill out time and pay records, clean up their desks, power down computers and get out of the office.

Exceptions can be made “in limited circumstances” for some employees to take longer, OMB said. Agencies are urged to make advanced preparations Friday to ensure the process goes smoothly on Monday. Employees scheduled to work on Saturday or Sunday may spend up to half a day on shutdown-related activities. Employees with a telework agreement already scheduled to work from outside the office on Monday may also perform their shutdown-related activities from a remote location.

Q: If Congress fails to pass a bill, and we know the government is shutting down, when are we supposed to conduct “orderly shutdown” activities?

A: Workers “should be directed to return to work on the following Monday morning to conduct such activities,” OMB said.

Q: If a shutdown begins Friday night, can I work from home over the weekend?

A: No. “Following a lapse in appropriations, the Antideficiency Act bars nonexcepted work by such employees other than to perform orderly shutdown activities.” In other words, it is against federal law for nonessential personnel to work during a government shutdown.

Q: What about using mobile devices such as BlackBerrys or Secure IDs?

A: Each agency has the discretion to determine how to halt use of government-issued devices . “Some may choose, for example, to include in orderly shutdown activities a requirement that furloughed employees turn in their Blackberries until they return to the office; others may determine that circumstances warrant a different approach,” OMB said.

Q: What if I’m on a temporary assignment away from the office or on official government travel? Should I plan to return home sooner than planned?

Answer: Such workers “are encouraged to do so wherever reasonable and practicable,” OMB said. But agencies are expected to weigh how long it would take for a worker to return home and then resume the assignment once a shutdown is over. If it’s too much of a burden, the worker should stay put, at least in the short term.

Q: What about government Web sites?

A: “The mere benefit of continued access by the public to information about the agency’s activities” is not a good enough reason to keep updating a nonessential Web site during a shutdown, according to OMB.

But if a Web site needs maintenance to avoid significant damage or for the execution of an agency’s activities (including the IRS Web site around tax season), then the site should remain operational.

“If it becomes necessary to incur obligations to ensure that a website remains available in support of excepted activities, it should be maintained at the lowest possible level,” OMB said.

Q: How do we let people know that the Web site isn’t being updated?

A: Agencies should post a message on the home page stating that information might not be up to date, that information sent to the agency through the Web site might not be processed until after a shutdown and that the agency might not respond to any inquiries.

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