8/24/11: Thousands of Federal employees were sent home after yesterday afternoon's 5.8 earthquake shook our nation's capitol -- including hundreds of SEC employees in Headquarters. Except, of course, for the HQ employees who were already teleworking on a recurring schedule yesterday.
Immediately following the earthquake, the Union sent out a notice to these recurring teleworkers from Headquarters asking them if they were still online and at work. Within minutes, dozens of teleworkers responded by email that they were still hard at work, including numerous participants in the Expanded Telework Program.
This exercise demonstrated once again not only that teleworking employees work hard for our agency, but that a well-established telework program at the SEC is a valuable and important component of any plan to ensure continuity of agency operations in the event of an emergency. Indeed, the employees who continued to work from home yesterday collectively provided hundreds of hours of work during a time when other HQ staff were making their way home in an early afternoon rush hour. They were continuing to advance our agency's mission. The SEC saw the same advantage during the winter of 2010, when teleworkers at the SEC kept on working for days while DC was buried under a city-closing snow storm.
In fact, federal telework programs are intended, in part, to provide such continuity of operations during an emergency situation. It is for that reason that Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry wrote to chief human capital officers across the federal government in advance of the Washington snowstorm that they should utilize it to “test their telework plans in the context of emergency preparedness.” Berry is a strong advocate for expanding telework in the federal government.
Despite the benefits of telework, however, SEC senior management is continuing to seek aggressive cutbacks in the agency's telework program, without even articulating reasons for opposition to the program. SEC senior management seems stuck in a twentieth century mindset regarding how work is performed, while other federal agencies and private sector employers utilize available technology to permit their employees to telework.
The Union will continue to defend telework and other programs that promote workplace efficiency.