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Emergency Planning *

By helping to support a distributed workforce, telework is a vital component of emergency planning.

This section covers the differences in the use of telework during relatively routine situations that disrupt office operations (e.g., late arrival, early dismissal or office closures due to inclement weather); and the direct relationship between an agency's Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan, to ensure that essential Federal functions continue during emergency situations such as localized acts of nature, accidents, technological or attack-related emergencies, or pandemic influenza that may affect operations over the course of weeks or even months.

For information about the specifics of your agency’s telework and emergency planning policies and procedures, contact your telework coordinator.


The Basics

Telework must be part of all agency emergency planning. In fact, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-292) requires that all executive agencies incorporate telework into their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans. Management must be committed to implementing remote work arrangements as broadly as possible to take full advantage of the potential of telework for this purpose and ensure that -

  • Equipment, technology, and technical support have been tested
  • Employees are comfortable with technology and communications methods
  • Managers are comfortable managing a distributed workgroup

In addition, agencies and management should consider investing in and using -

  • Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and other technologies that enable multi-channel communication
  • paperless systems

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Late Arrival, Early Dismissal and Closure **

Snow storms, large-scale road closures, demonstrations or other events that temporarily shut down portions of urban areas – any of these may necessitate closure of some Federal Government offices to the public. However, the event causing the closure may not affect individuals who are teleworking on that day, or who could telework on that day. Agencies may therefore require teleworkers to work when Federal offices are closed to the public for these kinds of emergency situations, if specified in the telework agreement.

Any requirement that an employee continues to telework if Federal offices are closed to the public (or during delayed arrivals or early dismissals) on his or her telework day or on any of his or her regularly scheduled workdays are subject to collective bargaining and should be included explicitly in the agency's telework policy and the employee's written telework agreement. Agencies may also consider exercising their authority to provide excused absence to telework employees on a case-by-case basis (e.g., electricity, infrastructure/connectivity issues, childcare or eldercare issues) when they are required to work when Federal offices are closed to the public.

Employees who are required to work during their regular tour of duty on a day when Federal offices are closed to the public (or during delayed arrivals or early dismissals) are not entitled to receive overtime pay, credit hours, or compensatory time off for performing work during their regularly scheduled hours.

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Continuity of Operations (COOP)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD 1) defines COOP as "an effort within individual agencies to ensure they can continue to perform Mission Essential Functions (MEFs) and Primary Mission Essential Functions (PMEFs) during a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies." Telework allows employees to conduct some or all of their work at an alternative worksite away from the employee's typically used office since that may not be viable during an emergency.

Manager Responsibilities:

  • Understand the agency's emergency plans (continuity plan, pandemic plan, etc.) and management roles in executing the plan.
  • Implement telework to the greatest extent possible so systems are in place to support successful telework in an emergency
  • Notify employees designated as emergency personnel for a continuity or pandemic event
  • Communicate expectations to both emergency and non-emergency employees regarding their roles and responsibilities in an emergency.
  • Establish communication processes to notify emergency employees and non-emergency employees of the activation of the agency's emergency plan and the agency's operating status during the emergency.
  • Integrate emergency expectations into telework agreements as appropriate
  • Determine how employees who telework will communicate with one another and with management to accomplish work
  • Determine how time and attendance will be maintained
  • Allow personnel who might telework in case of an emergency to telework regularly to ensure functionality.

Teleworker Responsibilities:

  • Maintain a current telework agreement detailing any emergency telework responsibilities specified for a continuity and/or pandemic event, as appropriate.
  • Practice telework regularly to ensure effectiveness.
  • Be familiar with the agency's emergency plans (continuity plan, pandemic plan, etc.) and your manager's expectations for how you will telework during such events.
  • Be flexible; be willing to perform all duties assigned to you by management even if they are outside your usual or customary duties.

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* Adapted from Telework Guide Adobe Acrobat Version [861 KB]

** Adapted from Washington, DC area Dismissal or Closure Procedures Adobe Acrobat Version [996 KB]