Federal Employees Go Back to Work ... on a Huge 'Mess' Assuming they got the news at all By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Oct 17, 2013 11:38 AM CDT 45 comments Comments Joe Biden greets Environmental Protection Agency workers as they return to work after 16 days of a government shutdown at the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Newser) – Federal employees are officially back on the job this morning—assuming they got the news. The bill reopening the government was signed late last night, and agencies couldn't exactly email their employees to let them know, because it was actually illegal for workers to check their email during the shutdown. Some departments have set up hotlines or phone trees to notify employees, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Hopefully it'll come through the grape vine," one TSA analyst tells CNN. Not everyone can return immediately, either; some, for instance, need to make new day care arrangements. And when they do get back in the office, they'll be weeks behind schedule, and face horrific email and voicemail backlogs. "It's going to be a mess," a former Executive Branch human resources manager tells Politico. "It's not just like flipping a switch," a geologist whose research was interrupted agreed in an NPR piece. "There's a lot of cogs in the machine." On the bright side, if you returned to work at the EPA this morning, Joe Biden brought you muffins, ABC reports.