Dear government workers: welcome to the private sector. This is what it feels like to have job insecurity. For the past 7 hours, some 800,000 suddenly idle Federal workers received furlough notices but were told they will still have to report to work for about four hours Tuesday even though the government is shutting down. Or, rather“work.” As AP reports, various federal agencies said employees would be limited to doing work related to the shutdown, including changing voicemail messages, posting an out-of-office message on email, securing work stations and documents and completing time cards. At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, employees were told they cannot work on “any projects, tasks, activities or respond to emails.” The more cynical ones out there may ask: just how is that any change?
More on today’s shutdown chronology from AP:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it will close its offices at 1:30 p.m. Other agencies, such as the Labor Department, expect most employees to be gone by mid-day, but haven’t set a specific time.
Once they head home, furloughed employees are under strict orders not to do any work. That means no sneaking glances at Blackberries or smart phones to check emails, no turning on laptop computers, no checking office voicemail, and no use of any other government-issued equipment.
Office managers are encouraging workers to leave government-issued cell phones and computers in a secure place at the office. Those employees who work from home may find it more difficult to break the habit of checking emails or looking at documents.
Employees will receive an official e-mail on Tuesday explaining whether or not they are essential or slated to be furloughed. The email will include appeal rights and a form to use for seeking unemployment insurance. Some workers may be eligible for unemployment depending where they live. Some states require a one-week waiting period before applying, while others allow workers to apply right away.
Federal workers would not see their pay affected right away. If a shutdown continues, all employees can expect to be paid on schedule on Oct. 15, 2013 for hours worked from Sept. 22 through Sept. 30.
Certainly, when one sees efficiency like that at not working what can one say but: government work. Hopefully the shutdown does not endure, or else “broken email checking habits” may persist, and suddenly government workers may become even more inefficient once they return to “work.”