Non-teleworking feds should reconsider commute plans in DC next week, OPM says

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Most federal employees in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area are still teleworking due to the pandemic, but the Office of Personnel Management is encouraging anyone who isn’t to consider remote work plans for several days before and after Inauguration Day.

In new guidance issued to agencies Wednesday night, OPM urged federal employees in the region to do their part to “minimize distraction to law enforcement and security officials” over the course of the next week.

“OPM strongly encourages agencies to allow such employees to telework, where possible, to keep the federal government operating while helping to minimize traffic congestion and support law enforcement efforts during these events,” Michael Rigas, the agency’s acting director, said in a memo to agencies.

The federal government “remains open for business,” OPM said. But it acknowledged there may be disruptions for those who may commute to work in the D.C. region starting as early as Friday.

“There will be significant traffic disruptions that will occur from Jan. 15 through 22, due to road, street, and bridge closures; vehicle restricted zones; mass transit changes and station closures; motorcades and the establishment of security perimeters,” Michael Rigas, OPM’s acting director, said in a memo to agencies. “Federal employees who work in the downtown Washington, DC, area and its vicinity should be prepared for commuting delays.”

Employees can also ask to use annual leave, leave without pay, compensatory time off or days off through an alternative work schedule between Jan. 15 and 22, OPM said.

The new guidance comes as local officials in the District step up security in the aftermath of last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol. Tens of thousands of members of National Guard troops will be deployed to the District, as WTOP, Federal News Network’s sister station, reported.

Federal employees who must commute to work over the course of the next week should leave extra time to plan for closed roads in the region, OPM said. Employees should make sure they bring the appropriate identification, such as a common access card or personal identity verification card, to enter their buildings.

OPM also urged employees to pay attention to local news for additional announcements on potential road closures, public transportation disruptions, building closures or possible changes to the government’s operating status.

Agencies should make sure they can easily communicate with their employees about any specific issues that might arise, Rigas added.

Previous guidance from the agency encouraged employees to telework on Jan. 19 and 20 due to traffic concerns, road closures and other disruptions associated with the Inauguration events.

But the latest OPM guidance extends those warnings to a full week.

Inauguration Day itself is a holiday for most federal employees whose usual offices and duty stations are located within the Washington metropolitan area, even if they’re teleworking outside the region for some reason, OPM has said.

Most federal employees also have the day off on Monday, Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

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