A Testament to Telework’s Progress

Option to work remotely helped keep agencies open in the wake of a severe D.C.-area storm.

Federal agencies are open on Tuesday, after a major storm in the D.C. area on Friday that has caused power outages and transportation problems for residents. And the fact that federal agencies are open, with employees having the option to take unscheduled leave or telework, pays tribute to the fact that telework has come a long way in the past couple of years.
Josh Sawislak, senior fellow for Telework Exchange, told Wired Workplace on Tuesday that the response to Friday’s storm -- which caught D.C.-area residents by surprise -- was proof that federal agencies have come a long way in implementing telework into their continuity of operations plans.
“If this storm had happened even five years ago, the government would have been shut down Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “But we’re seeing a much more resilient government than we have in the past.”
The trouble with Friday’s storm, however, is that not only did some federal agencies lose power, many federal employees lost and are still without electricity in their homes, Sawislak said. But that should not necessarily prevent federal employees from being able to telework, he added.
“We tend to think about telework as working from home, but really it’s much broader. It’s really what we call remote work,” he said. “The equipment you have, the training you have and the systems you set up, whether you’re sitting at your house, someone else’s house, a hotel room or another agency’s office … all you have to have is connectivity. It doesn’t matter where you are.”
Sawislak said while there has not been any data on the number of agencies or employees that have been able to continue working despite the power outages and transportation disruptions, he has heard from several agencies that said they were able to keep operations going, with many noting they were thankful to have invested in the equipment and training necessary to make that possible.
He said that Friday’s storm is a great example of why all federal employees, regardless of the type of job they perform, should be provided the tools and training necessary to telework in any emergency situation.
“If we can train, equip and prepare everybody, then situations like this are much easier to ensure we have continuity of operations throughout the government,” he said. “This has been a great opportunity to really get people to understand why telework is such a key piece of a resilience strategy.”
What impact did telework have on your agency’s ability to continue operations after Friday’s storm? Is this evidence that telework has come a long way in the past couple of years?