Telework has always been broadcast as the way of the future. However, up until a few months ago, few companies took advantage of teleworking as a solution for their personnel.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) swept the nation earlier this year, nearly 60 percent of municipal employees have shifted to remote work, according to a Governing survey, with many organizations planning to keep aspects of telework for the long term. Remote workers are reacting positively to the change in pace due to a variety of reasons – whether it’s no longer having to commute or the flexible schedule with children at home, government employees are succeeding in the transition to telework.
Managers and leadership are also seeing the benefits of telework. One of the most unusual and surprising effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that organizations have found that productivity and efficiency have increased by 47 percent, as reported by Forbes, rather than decreased as previously feared. Another benefit is the potential for cost savings. Municipalities can reallocate limited office space to more urgent projects, rather than having to lease more office space, which in turn can save significant amounts of money.
Many municipalities and public safety agencies are beginning to publicize that they will be adopting a more long-term “work from home” remote work policy. Here are tips for success:
Promote a work-life balance
Productivity increasing as employees are working longer hours than normal. While this is an overall positive, it can quickly venture into negative territory if not carefully managed. Because the workday no longer has a distinct beginning and end or the associated morning and evening commutes that come with it, employees are never really “leaving “ their office. Rather than abiding by a more common eight-hour schedule, employees are working longer and stretching their workday throughout the day, answering emails and finishing projects well into the night. Managers should seek to prevent burnout among their employees and encourage reasonable breaks during the day.
Maintain human connections
Despite increases in productivity, an ongoing concern around telework is that employee motivation will eventually fall off because they are not physically in the office. It is important for managers to maintain the human connection through regular touchpoints with their employees and video meetings to help keep people on track. Providing metrics and benchmarks can help employees maintain progress as they work from their home offices.
Build out a long-term plan
With proven successes around telework so far, many municipalities are deliberating on how to create a sustainable, long-lasting, work-from-home plan. They should begin discussing how best to implement the digital infrastructure needed to support a more permanent work-from-home solution. Municipalities should standardize processes, including communication platforms and cybersecurity protocols in order to handle a more permanent telework plan. In addition, not every position might be well-suited for a long-term, work-from-home framework. Figure out which positions those are, for example, non-customer facing positions might be best suited for a more permanent work-from-home policy.
The traditional office has been irreversibly changed. A definite date on when personnel will be heading back to the office, if at all, is still unclear for many organizations. In fact, American City & Country reported that 49 percent of municipalities are advising their workers to stay home as long as COVID-19 remains a threat. With the uncertainty around the pandemic still a concern, it is critical for municipalities to prepare for the potential of a new normal and what that will entail for their workforce in the long run.