Every time Washington is threatened by a major (like 6 inch) snowstorm, people’s thoughts turn to teleworking. Last year we got 31 inches of snow in one shot. That’s a lot even for those fabled cities where people “really know how to drive,” except when they have wrecks. And where the city has adequate equipment to keep things moving. Except when it doesn’t. And where schools never, ever close because of high snow. Except when, like this winter in New England, where they did close schools.
On Wednesday we got a double-dose of snow, though hardly of epic proportions. But enough to get our attention, cause a number of wrecks and shut down the school systems in many area jurisdictions. And enough to cause people in high places to think teleworking.
D.C. got a good taste of enforced teleworking during the snow storms of 2010. Up to a point. Most feds here got a week off. People who were designated as teleworkers were expected to work. The same thing happened yesterday in the Washington area. Non-emergency feds were allowed to leave work two hours early, but those who were teleworking were expected to keep working for their entire schedule.
Telework worked like a charm in Snowmageddon of 2010, provided you weren’t in one of the 260,000 households that were without electricity for up to a week. In that sense teleworking is like an electric car. In order to function, something’s got to be plugged into something at some point.
The good news is there will come a day when many, many federal workers will be doing their thing from home. But not necessarily in your lifetime. You and I may be compost before teleworking is the norm, not something people speculate, write and legislate about.
Despite the push to telework, and its many advantages – save the environment, save time, save money, save gasoline, eliminate tardiness, reduce absentism, cut back on office space, grow hair – it’s progress is painfully slow.
An Interior Department worker said “Congress can legislate and pontificate all it wants but people in my office will never telework as long as our current boss (grrrrrrrr!) is in charge. He is one of those people who will NEVER be happy if any of his charges are out of line of sight. We believe he’s planning to retire in 2-3 years. Then we’ve got a shot at teleworking.”
A GSA employee e-mailed what she said is an “ironic update.” She said her supervisor “is adamantly opposed to people working from home. That said, she e-mailed us today (Wednesday) to say she would be working from a ‘remote site.’ Interesting because she has school age children and the school system in her Virginia county is closed today. Suspicious? Not me!”
Reorganizaton/This Time For Sure
President Obama’s promise of a major government reorganization prompted one long-time fed to send us the following quote on the subject from an ancient Roman sailor/philosopher. He said:
“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganization; and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.” Petronius Arbiter, 66 AD.
Last month, the National Museum of the American Indian was a category on Jeopardy!, the quiz show. The players ran out of time before they could get to the $2000 NMAI question. Before you ask, the Smithsonian Magazine linked NMAI blog didn’t mention what the answer was.