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Emergency Planning *

By helping support a distributed workforce, telework is a tool for emergency planning at all levels - from snowstorms that close offices in a region for a day or two, to 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 should be part of all agency emergency planning. 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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Emergency Dismissal **

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. 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 the agency is closed for this kind of emergency.

Any requirement that an employee continues to telework if the agency closes (or dismisses employees early) on his or her telework day or on any of his or her regularly scheduled workdays should be included in the employee's telework agreement. Managers may excuse a telework employee from duty during an emergency situation if the emergency adversely affects the telework site (e.g., disruption of electricity, loss of heat, etc.), if the teleworker faces a personal hardship that prevents him or her from working successfully at the telework site, or if the teleworker’s duties are such that he or she cannot continue to work without contact with the regular worksite.

Employees who are required to work during their regular tour of duty on a day when their agency is closed (or when other employees are dismissed early) 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 planning as “...effective continuity planning and programs facilitate the performance of essential functions during all-hazards emergencies or other situations that may disrupt normal operations. The primary goal of continuity in the Executive branch is the continuation of essential functions.” COOP is intended to be short-term; it must be functional within 12 hours and may last up 30 days.

Telework can play a vital role in helping agencies preserve their essential functionality in this environment.

Manager COOP Responsibilities:

  • Understand the agency COOP plan and management roles in executing the plan.
  • Notify employees designated as essential personnel for COOP.
  • Communicate expectations both to COOP and non-COOP employees regarding what steps they need to take in case of an emergency.
  • Establish communication processes to notify COOP and non-COOP employees of COOP status in the event of an emergency.
  • Integrate COOP expectations into telework agreements as appropriate.
  • Allow essential personnel who might telework in case of an emergency to telework regularly to ensure functionality.

Teleworker COOP Responsibilities:

  • Maintain a current telework agreement detailing any COOP responsibilities, as appropriate.
  • Practice telework regularly to ensure effectiveness.
  • Be familiar with agency and workgroup COOP plans and individual expectations during COOP events.

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Pandemic Influenza

The National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan references the benefits of using telework to slow the spread of disease by keeping face-to-face contact to a minimum (often referred to as “social distancing”) while maintaining operations as close to normal as possible. Telework can also help agencies retain functionality as infrastructure issues and other challenges make the main worksite difficult to access.

The key to successful use of telework in the event of a pandemic health crisis is an effective routine telework program. As many employees as possible should have telework capability (i.e., current telework arrangements, connectivity, and equipment commensurate with their work needs and frequent enough opportunities to telework to ensure all systems have been tested and are known to be functional). This may entail creative thinking beyond current implementation of telework, drawing in employees who otherwise might not engage in remote access and ensuring their effectiveness as a distributed workforce.

Manager Pandemic Responsibilities:

  • Implement telework to the greatest extent possible in the workgroup so systems are in place to support successful remote work in an emergency.
  • Communicate expectations to all employees regarding their roles and responsibilities in relation to remote work in the event of a pandemic health crisis.
  • Establish communication processes to notify employees of activation of this plan.
  • Integrate pandemic health crisis response expectations into telework agreements.
  • With the employee, assess requirements for working at home (supplies and equipment needed for an extended telework period).
  • Determine how all employees who may telework will communicate with one another and with management to accomplish work.
  • Identify how time and attendance will be maintained.

For further information about pandemic influenza and telework, contact your agency telework coordinator.

Teleworker Pandemic Responsibilities:

  • Maintain current telework agreement specifying pandemic health crisis telework responsibilities, as appropriate.
  • Perform all duties assigned by management, even if they are outside usual or customary duties.
  • Practice telework regularly to ensure effectiveness.
  • Be familiar with agency and workgroup pandemic health crisis plans and individual expectations for telework during a pandemic health crisis.

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* Adapted from A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government Adobe Acrobat Version [103 KB]

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