a cold compress


The federal government allows employees to request alternative or flexible work schedules, one of which is called a “compressed work schedule,” or CWS. CWS enables an employee to work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day in a two-week period, with the tenth day off.

However, the executive director in my bureau is restrictive about granting such schedules and I’ve been told that above a certain GS level she won’t permit it, so I’ve not been allowed to change my work schedule (never mind that my interim supervisor for most of the past year, two GS levels above me, was granted CWS).

This wouldn’t bother me so much, except that, as I’ve whined before, I’m too much of a conscientious nice guy in the office. For months we’ve only had one Administrative Assistant, and she has been coming in at 7:45 and leaving at 4:30; when she is on break or at lunch, and between 4:30 and 5:00, I’ve most often been the one stuck answering the phones or greeting visitors to the office. I’ve had to forego my own lunch a number of times in order to cover, and at my level I’m also not permitted comp time; yet the AA diligently and accurately records every minute that I’m out for a doctor’s appointment or otherwise on leave.

Last week we filled a second open AA position, so we finally managed to have full coverage on the front desk. Before the end of that first week, though, she’d requested and been granted CWS, which begins next week. After that, the original AA also requested and has been granted CWS. Fortunately, they’re taking different days in alternate weeks as their day off, but it means that now there will be one day every week that we’ll be back to a single AA; moreover, the nine-hour days will have the AAs here on their own after regular business hours end for the rest of us. With most of the trustworthy support staff I’ve known in the past, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’ve seen at least one of these AAs playing solitaire, buying things and taking care of personal issues on the phone, throughout the day, as well as taking long lunches, every day. So I don’t expect much work to be done between 5 and 5:45 after the rest of us have left the office.

I know, I know… I probably should be grateful I have a job at all, and that it’s one that allows me to leave at 5:00; after all, it’s been many, many years since I last was able to work only an eight-hour day. On the other hand, I was making one and a third to two times as much back when I was working my twelve to sixteen hour days; a government salargy doesn’t provide a great deal of incentive to put in such long hours.

And I also can see that, given that the AAs are making even less than I am, it’s nice that they’re provided an opportunity for more flexibility in their work schedules. Sigh… I’m always trying to see it from both sides, even in the midst of feeling that the truism about nice guys sometimes does play out for me at the finish line.