The Patent and Trademark Office has announced that now the agency is
officially a performance-based organization, it is eliminating the
requirement that employees sign in and out on time sheets and expanding
opportunities for employees to work flexible hours.
"As a PBO, we're going to strive to give you the freedom to
challenge the status quo of our culture," PTO Commissioner Q. Todd
Dickinson told agency employees at a ceremony last week celebrating the
enactment of legislation that gave the agency more independence, along
with greater accounatbility for business results. "We're going to
encourage you to be creative, to take initiative—to take risks and
suggest things that should be changed."
"First, effective immediately, we're throwing out
sign-in/sign-out sheets—and this applies to overtime and comp time,
too," Dickinson said. He also announced PTO would expand the hours
employees could choose to work under flexible schedules from 5:30 a.m.
to 8:00 p.m.
The new policy will allow PTO to offer mid-day flexible schedules,
under which employees could work a standard eight-hour day in two
shifts. For example, an employee could come into work at 5:30 a.m. for
four hours, then return at 1:30 p.m. for four more hours. The four-hour
block of free time during the day would enable the employee to run
errands that would otherwise be impossible to accomplish in the evening.
Dickinson also said PTO would allow employees to dress casually on
Fridays and set up an "employee communication mailbox" to
foster communication throughout the agency.
Ronald Stern, president of the Patent Office Professionals
Association, credited Dickinson for being the "moving force"
behind the changes. But he added that the agency's "self-proclaimed
status" as a PBO is "more a state of mind" than anything
"This is something every single agency has within itself to
accomplish. You don't have to be a PBO," said Stern.
In fact, many agencies have already implemented the type of programs
Dickinson is starting at PTO. Vice President Al Gore advised agencies in
1993 to eliminate sign-in/sign-out sheets and introduce flextime as a
work option for employees.
Stern said the PTO has traditionally been a very conservative place,
and the changes Dickinson is introducing—the expansion of flextime in
particular—are not wholly embraced across the board. "Some
managers are not convinced this is a good idea," he said.