Teleworkers vs. commuters: Pick your poison!

Tuesday - 3/11/2014, 2:00am EDT

As a kid I lived with a series of uncles and aunts for a number of years. One of them, my Uncle Hugh the farmer, was a self-educated man. I always thought he should have lived in the 19th century rather than the 20th. He was tough, kind and diplomatic. As in ...

When somebody was difficult or impossible to please, my 19th-century uncle, would respond with, "He'd complain if he was hanged with old rope." I didn't exactly get it, but I found it amusing. Probably everyone has a slightly different definition of the phrase, but most of us know, or think we know, what it means.

I thought of the old rope line recently when people began commenting, pro and con, on the government's telework policy during weather emergencies. Generally speaking, people who have signed telework agreements must work from home even if their nonessential office-mates get a snow day off. That's happened a lot this year in federal offices from Minneapolis and Atlanta to D.C. and Boston.

The vast majority of teleworkers we've heard from — both in emails to me and from the "comments" section — say they love it and are happy to work from home while others get the day off. It's part of the deal they made with Uncle Sam, and they love the fact that they don't have to commute. But there are others who think the telework policy is due for a little tweaking.

One reader said that the government should give teleworkers a couple of hours off so they can — as many local laws require — shovel the sidewalks in front of their house.

Another said that nonteleworkers in his office "missed" a meeting scheduled for last Monday because they were off, and not at work, whereas their colleagues out west reported for duty as usual.

One IRS fed said the government should adopt the standard private- sector practice for nonemergency workers: "You show up or you take a vacation day. End of story."

But here's another side to the story from a fed at HHS:

"I am not allowed to telework on a regular basis, but have been required to sign a telework agreement and must telework on days that the government is closed. My employees can telework if they want to on a regular basis as long as they have voluntarily signed a telework agreement. This also means the need to telework on days that the government is closed. I also have superiors that telework regularly. My work lends itself to teleworking, but I am not allowed to telework except when it is only in the interest on the government. If I choose not to telework, then I am forced to take annual leave. How's that for getting the shaft all the way around?"

NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The computer progress bar was invented by a graduate student name Brad Myers in 1985. Myers, now a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, found his fellow students preferred running searches on a computer database with the aid of a "percent-done progress indicator."

(Source: New York Times)


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