Legislators Hear Reports and Debate Telework for State Employees Going Forward

During a June 15 meeting of the Legislature’s Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee, legislators heard reports on the status of teleworking from Senior Consultant, Jeff Mottishaw of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB). Mr. Mottishaw discussed data collected on teleworking by the Department of Human Resources (DHRM).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some agencies had already implemented telework. Some agencies had plans in place they had yet to implement, and others were studying telework for the future. Once the pandemic arrived in Utah these efforts were accelerated, DHRM reported.

The shutdown forced some public services to be suspended for a short period of time, but almost all other services were automated and moved online to limit face-to-face contact.

Going forward, agencies anticipate a new normal. Agency heads have informed DHRM that they intend to increase teleworking activities, especially for administrative staff. Services are continuing to be expanded online and virtual meetings are being integrated with customer interfaces. At agencies where employees are needed in the office, efforts are being made to stagger their workdays. The state will be on par if not ahead of the private sector in implemented telework if efforts continue as they have.

Mr. Mottishaw and his team received feedback from employees in the Department of Human Services through an anonymous survey. “Our employees are happier with the flexible schedules and work environment, which leads to less stress and higher morale…We have helped with less pollution and congestion on the roads.”

Communication with both supervisors and coworkers among those who are teleworking is reported to be 96% effective. Long-term telework interest is high for 86% of those surveyed. DHRM also reported to Mr. Mottishaw that while most of the telework outcomes have not impacted efficiency, there have been impacts on team collaboration and connectivity. Employees who do not wish to continue teleworking cite missing the in-office social interaction or not wanting to give up their dedicated office space.

DHRM relayed to the GOMB that operating expenses have decreased by 15%, and it is estimated that by December 2020, there will be cost savings of $178 per employee, per month, for a year-end total of 28.6% in savings.

Legislators were pleased that the transition to teleworking has gone as smoothly as it has and that a large majority of employees have reported enjoying teleworking. Teleworking will be studied more this year to determine its future.