Holiday hours

The Postal Service has announced holiday hours for Post Offices and blue collection boxes:

• Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Some Post Offices may have extended hours leading up to the holidays, while others may have limited hours on Thursday, Dec. 24. Although there are no plans for limited hours on Thursday, Dec. 31, customers should always check with their local Post Office for hours of operation.

Blue boxes with final collection times before noon will not be affected by an early closing Dec. 24. If a box has a final collection time after noon, its mail may be picked up earlier.

For mail pickup Dec. 24, customers should put their mail into blue boxes by noon regardless of the final collection times posted on the box.

Customers should use usps.com’s Postal Locator tool to find open local Post Offices if they want to mail items after scheduled pickup times on Dec. 24.

• Christmas Day and New Year’s Day: Post Offices nationwide will be closed Friday, Dec. 25, and Friday, Jan. 1.

All Post Offices will be open after the holidays. Regular mail delivery will resume Saturday, Dec. 26, and Saturday, Jan. 2.

Giving, receiving

With the holiday season underway, the USPS Ethics Office wants to remind employees about the rules regarding gifts.

Employees may not accept gifts from contractors, vendors, suppliers or customers. Employees also may not accept gifts given to them because of their Postal Service positions.

Here are some guidelines about gifts from outside sources:

• An employee may accept a noncash gift from an outside source if it has a value of $20 or less. However, if the employee has accepted more than $50 worth of gifts from that source in the calendar year, the gift must be declined.

• Would accepting the gift create an appearance that ethics rules have been violated? If the answer is yes, the gift must be declined.

• Employees may never accept cash or cash equivalents from an outside source. Cash equivalents include checks, money orders and gift cards backed by credit card companies. Gift cards for a retail store or online vendor are not considered cash equivalents.

When celebrating an annual holiday, an employee may only give a superior or higher-paid employee a noncash gift valued at $10 or less.

Here are some guidelines about gifts between employees:

• Group gifts. They are not permitted for regularly occurring events such as holidays.

• “White elephant” gift exchanges. These types of exchanges typically involve giving and receiving amusing or impractical gifts, but they should be valued at $10 or less and cash should not be given as a gift.

• Offices may collect money in order to host a holiday party. Collection is limited to $10 per person and should be done by a lower-level employee with no employees reporting directly to him or her. All contributions must be voluntary.

The 2020 Holiday Ethics Guide has more information. If you have questions, email the Ethics Office or call its hotline at 202-268-6346.

Go Teams!

Postal Service employees with ACE computers can request access to Microsoft Teams, an application that integrates an array of tools on a single platform to foster collaboration and increase efficiency.

Teams can help people work together on one or more projects. It brings together chat, video conferencing and file storage functions, allowing users to work together in real time.

For example, co-workers can discuss projects in a group or through one-to-one chat messages that, unlike Skype chats, are saved for future reference. This eliminates the need for large attachments and multiple emails, which are sometimes missed.

The platform also allows users to share files and co-edit documents in real time, automatically saving edits as they are made.

Additionally, Teams allows users to quickly switch from chat messaging to video conferencing, which can accommodate as many as 10,000 participants at once. (Zoom is the official USPS web conferencing option available through all conference rooms, but Teams provides another videoconferencing option for ACE computer users.)

Teams also offers Together mode, a group video conferencing option that uses artificial intelligence segmentation technology.

At least four participants are required for Together, which places live video of each virtual meeting participant on a shared background in one “room” so participants can see each other’s faces, body language and other non-verbal communication. Research has shown that viewing people during meetings enhances meeting efficiency and outcomes.

ACE computer users can receive access to the Teams application even if they haven’t migrated to Office 365. A Quick User Guide can help with the learning curve, and USPS will offer a “Getting Started with Microsoft Teams” webinar on three dates:

Additional webinars are planned.

To access Teams, request “Office 365 Teams and Planner” in eAccess, allow two business days following approval, then follow the download instructions.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, an annual commemoration of the 1941 attack, will be observed Monday, Dec. 7.

Postal Service facilities are required to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff this day.

To fly the flag at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak for an instant and then lower it to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak again before it’s lowered for the day.

For additional information, refer to the Postal Service’s Administrative Support Manual, which explains the organization’s guidelines on U.S. flag display and maintenance.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

Scanning snapshot. A snapshot of Postal Service scanning data shows the national rating was 96.69 percent during the week ending Nov. 27, down about one-quarter of a percentage point from one week earlier.

The data was collected Dec. 2.

Western-Pacific led the four areas with a rating of 97.43 percent, while Central ranked last with a 96.33 percent rating.

Among the 67 districts, Western-Pennsylvania, part of Atlantic Area, ranked first with a rating of 98.35 percent, while Mississippi, part of Southern Area, ranked last with a 91.47 percent rating.

To see the latest data, go to the Informed Visibility website and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.”

Open season information. The Postal Service will offer its “Making the Most of Open Season” webinar on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m. EST.

Participants can log in via Zoom or call 503-336-1236 or 952-229-5070 (meeting ID: 1619821813; password: 835976).

Additionally, employees can participate in a live chat with health insurance experts on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

The chat is part of the Virtual Benefits Fair, an online event that is running during this year’s benefits enrollment period. Participants can register at the 2020 Virtual Benefits Fair website.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has additional information.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.