OPM offers Y2K stress reduction tips

ksaldarini@govexec.com

Managers beware: the grueling hours and tedious coding federal Y2K workers face everyday may be bugging them out.

Luckily, a new resource is available to help federal managers prevent stressed-out Y2K workers from spontaneously combusting.

The Office of Personnel Management's report, "Managing for Y2K in the Federal Workforce: The Human Element," offers managers the do's and don'ts of handling the federal Y2K workforce. The tips cover organizational structure, stress management, employee assistance programs, personnel flexibilities, and proactive management.

"The Y2K staff may be different from the employees that the manager is accustomed to supervising," the report warned. "They may feel like the child with a finger in the dyke."

To counteract such stress, OPM recommends that managers monitor sick leave and intervene before an entire workgroup gets Y2K burnout. "Don't encourage them to 'lighten up'," and "don't make extraneous demands on Y2K staff, no matter how minor they may seem to you," the report said.

The report recommended that managers make sure employee assistance services are readily available to Y2K staff through orientations and conveniently scheduled seminars. Managers should protect the privacy of staff who choose to use employee help services, the report said.

Several agencies were singled out for their efforts to reduce Y2K employee stress. The Department of Labor, for example, has separate office space for the Y2K team. Managers of the Y2K team make it a point to accept responsibility for flubbed projects.

The Interior Department takes a team approach to cultivating Y2K spirit and identity. "Y2K Team" caps, pens and mugs are distributed as informal awards to employees who support the effort.

OPM gave itself a pat on the back for creating new flexible work schedules for Y2K employees, among other stress-reducing efforts.

OPM is culling examples of best practices in federal Y2K workforce management. E-mail your agency's ideas to ehs@opm.gov and OPM will post them on its Web site.

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