Telework: DON Keeps Working Through Flu Season

Story Number: NNS091221-04Release Date: 12/21/2009 9:56:00 AM
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By George Markfelder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Civilian Human Resources) Communications

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Recent influenza outbreaks, particularly those associated with H1N1, drive home the importance of telework in meeting mission requirements.

All Federal agencies are required to have a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan at the ready, should the need arise, to include Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP). Further, the Department of Defense requires that telework be included in all COOPs - reinforcing the importance of being able to work remotely from an alternative work location.

"Having a management team that is familiar with telework and who could easily expand the program if needed to meet key organizational goals is critical during any emergency, but especially during a pandemic crisis," said Karen Meyer, Department of the Navy (DON) Work/Life program manager. "Even if an organization does not regularly telework because it does not fit their mission, they should still be prepared to work remotely during an emergency, or they will have a huge problem that could have been minimized with some foresight and minimal effort."

According to Meyer, 40 percent of flu cases could be prevented by stopping the spread of germs; history recalls that avoiding human contact by "social distancing" was and remains the most effective method of minimizing the effects of the pandemic flu emergency.

"The perception that telework is only something 'nice' to do for employees is simply not true," said Meyer.
"Teleworking today not only addresses work-life balance issues but also provides commands and organizations effective and flexible means to respond to critical mission requirements and weighty logistical challenges, including escalating maintenance costs, and rising fuel consumption associated with lengthy commutes."

Recent events have heightened awareness of teleworking and the ability for agencies to continue mission critical functions across a broad spectrum of emergencies. Within the DON all major commands have a designated telework coordinator responsible for all telework issues. Written agreements are required for telework and managers should ensure employees considered essential have a telework agreement in place, before an emergency occurs. For more information on telework, contact the command headquarters' director of Civilian Personnel Policy Offices.

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