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Our Director Director's Blog

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? Over the next several weeks, the nation will join together to learn the best ways to prepare for disasters and emergencies, particularly those close to home.

This year’s theme, “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare,” reminds us that we need to do more than just learn how to be prepared.  We all need to act now to make emergency plans, talk to family and friends, and get the supplies and equipment we need to be prepared.

Here in Washington, D.C., we are used to preparing for snow and ice storms that sometimes shut down the capital city during the unpredictable winter months. But as the derecho storm, Hurricane Sandy, in 2012 and the earthquake in 2011 taught us, we never know when an emergency will hit. And no matter what time of year it is, or what part of the country you are in, it is important to prepare at work, at home, and in your communities.

Maybe that means having a conversation with your family about making sure you have a central place to meet, or talking to your co-workers about workplace evacuation, it’s crucial to think ahead so that you can react immediately when a real emergency occurs.

Throughout September, the website Ready.gov and Federal agencies across government will be sharing resources, tips, and tools. Agencies are also being asked to educate and prepare employees for emergencies, both throughout this month and on the National Preparathon! Day of Action on September 30.

OPM is a national partner in the National Prepareathon! and we are excited to do all we can to spread the word about what to do during disasters. Here at OPM, we’ll be hosting an awareness series for our employees specifically focused on earthquake preparedness. As we found out in 2011, while earthquakes may be rare in our area, it is important for everyone to know what to what to do in the moment to stay safe.

I hope you will join us. Take this month to talk to your families and your co-workers. Make plans, ask questions, and seek out the resources you need. Join in the conversation on social media using hashtag #NatlPrep and check out Ready.gov.

There’s no good time for an emergency but it’s always a good time to get prepared for one.

Black bag with yellow writing that says 'Survival Kit'

As we begin this year’s Labor Day celebration, I want to take a minute to thank each and every member of our Federal family for your hard work and for the excellent service you provide the American people. One way for us to honor your efforts is to make sure you have the flexibilities you need to help balance your life at work and at home.

From the moment he took office, President Obama has promoted and supported the kind of flexible benefits that will help us recruit, empower and retain a world class Federal workforce. During the historic White House summit on Working Families on June 23, the President signed a memorandum outlining his vision for such a workplace culture.

OPM recently issued guidance to Federal agencies to make sure that we deliver on the President’s vision.

Workplace flexibilities go beyond the traditional annual leave, sick leave and family and medical leave. Working with their supervisors, Federal employees have the right to request alternative work schedules, job-sharing, telework, part-time work and leave transfer programs.

Our memorandum reminds agencies that they “must not create arbitrary and unnecessary barriers” that would keep employees from asking to take advantage of workplace flexibilities. And I will be asking agencies to report to me about what best practices they are using to create a culture and workplace environment that supports the use of these programs. I also want agencies to report any barriers that may unnecessarily restrict the use of these flexibilities so we can work together to remove obstacles.

The bottom line is, I don’t want Federal employees to worry about retaliation when they seek work schedule flexibilities. And we want to make sure agencies have the procedures and policies in place to create a culture that allows employees to feel comfortable making requests.

We talk a lot here about employee morale and how to best create a workplace where employees feel engaged and appreciated. What better way for us to show our appreciation for the incredible work our 2 million-strong, talented workforce does than to be sensitive to the tug employees often feel between their desire to do their jobs and the need to take care of a family situation or emergency.

What’s more, these flexibilities are not just good for employees. I know that if you believe, when a family emergency comes up, that your manager will bend over backwards to accommodate you, you will go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work.

We are one Federal family. We need to look out for each other, help each other and trust each other to do the best for the American people we serve.

Enjoy your well-deserved Labor Day holiday!


Last May, OPM launched the OPM Alert mobile app that allows users to find out in a moment’s notice if the status of the Federal government in the Washington, DC area changes. The app has been downloaded more than 240,000 times.

Now we are pleased to announce an update that will allow many more Federal employees and military personnel access to it. Those that have been unable to download it due to security restrictions on their work devices now have an appropriate download available through OPM’s website. Users must have a .gov, .mil, or si.edu email address to register and download the mobile app package.

OPM’s dismissal and closure guidance covers any natural disaster or event that disrupts commuting in the Washington, D.C. area.  This includes not only snow and ice storms, but earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or other special events that may occur during the year.  Whenever these emergencies unfold, OPM is committed to promoting the continuity of operations and ensuring the safety of its workforce. 

The OPM Alert mobile app is a fantastic resource and tool for employees in the DC area to keep up-to-date on status changes. It is customizable based on the alerts you want to receive and features an archive of past announcements. You can download the app through the Apple, Google Play, Windows, and Blackberry App World stores.

 

 


One request I get each time I talk with students, teachers, Federal employees and community leaders is: Please make USAJOBS easier to use.

I’ve heard you. OPM wants to make USAJOBS the best possible tool for people searching for a job in the Federal government. And to do that we need your help.

I’m happy to announce that our USAJOBS team is beginning a program to ask people who use USAJOBS to help us identify the issues they encounter when they access the site. Our team is looking for volunteers, and we need your feedback.

We would need about two hours of your time. Here are some of the things we may ask you to do as part of our research:

  • Participate in an interview about your experiences with the site (1 hour).
  • Test out the current site or potential changes to the site (30-60 minutes).
  • Participate in a focus group discussion (2 hours).
  • Join a brainstorming session on how to improve the site (2 hours).

Getting help from those who use USAJOBS is crucial to our effort to improve it. We want USAJOBS to be easy to navigate. We want it to be the best it can be for you, the job seeker.

Interested in helping? Email usability@usajobs.gov with your name, state of residence, and preferred email address.


As we head toward Labor Day and the end of summer, I hope all Federal employees will take a few minutes to bring in one last donation for Feds Feed Families, our annual food drive. August 31 is the final day of this important campaign.

I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our family here at the Office of Personnel Management. But I’m not surprised. Each and every day I see all the hard work OPM employees do to serve the American people. And their willingness to help those among us with the least continues to inspire me.

At OPM we have walked, bowled, held bake sales and set up donation boxes at our headquarters in Washington, D.C., at our offices at Boyers, Pennsylvania, and at field locations throughout the country.

Every morning, I walk by what I like to call our wall of inspiration. On it are pasted copies of big red boxing gloves with the names of OPM employees who have donated 10 or more food items to help the hungry in our community. It makes me happy to see how Team OPM has opened its heart to those in need.

During June and July, OPM employees donated more than 15,000 pounds of food. That’s twice as much as had been given by this time last year, and August is usually our biggest month for contributions. So I think we can beat the 38,778 pounds OPM donated last year.

Employees across government are definitely doing their part. Last year, Federal employees nationwide donated nearly 9 million pounds of food. In June and July, our Federal workforce gave nearly 5 million.

We are all well on our way to besting last year’s totals.

But now is not the time to slack off. Donations to food banks and food pantries historically drop off significantly during the summer. And one in six Americans do not have access to enough food.

So before you go off to your well-deserved Labor Day holiday, please consider bringing in one last donation of food. Spread the word: Let’s do all we can to Knock Out Hunger!

Wall of signs with boxing gloves on them and names of employees who have donated to the FFF campaign


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