Join Chas and Julie as they discuss two topics you've been hearing (and probably thinking) a lot about: remote work and returning to the office.

A few of the issues they'll delve into:

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Dennis Miller, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges. 

As we wrap up calendar year 2020, which has been an exceptionally difficult year worldwide to say the least, thought must be given to the working paradigms organizations must consider in 2021 and beyond - especially those in local and state government, healthcare, and higher education.

According to an article from September 24, 2020, authored by Sheiner and Campbell from The Brookings Institution, revenues from state and local government are forecasted to be reduced by $5.44 trillion by the end of 2022 due to the effects of the pandemic, primarily from less revenue derived from income, sales, property, and corporate taxes. To be sure, the reduction in revenue will likely roll-forward well beyond 2022.

These revenue shortfalls will no doubt lead to these same entities lobbying for relief programs to be offered by the federal government, something we've already seen happen in 2020. These organizations will also probably initiate their own internal reform measures to help mitigate the issues the best they can while remaining financially viable. 

One area of interest that continues to percolate is the volume of employee positions at a given employer that are able to work from home (WFH) compared to positions that do not support the WFM model - for obvious reasons. 

Pre-pandemic, in local and state governments and higher education, it was a tough sell to have employees engage in a WFH program. Generally, policies did not support this model and except for using a WFH model only on an “exception basis”, many organizations simply did not support the idea.  Some view the WFH model as ineffective for a variety of data points (some data points more valid than others), and managers will often prefer to see their employees “in person”. 

Sure, for leaders, a WFH model requires a different style of leadership and management. But, is not “adaptability” a key quality of any good leader? 

If 2020 has taught us anything about working remotely, it is that the WFH model can be effective for many positions within local and state government, as well as higher education. The healthcare environment is a little more difficult to broadly apply a WFH model due to the nature of the work, although some healthcare workers do enjoy a WFH model. Still, the mindset has begun to shift in government and higher education to support a WFH model, out of sheer necessity, and the last eight months has already shattered more than a few paradigms about working remotely in many industries. 

For those policy makers within government agencies and higher education, as you conduct the annual review of policies and procedures in preparation for the 2021 calendar year, now is an ideal time to integrate a more formalized WFH written program for 2021 and beyond.

Given the ominous financial outlook for at least the next 2 years, there is likely a way to show how a WFH model will actually lower the overall cost of labor when you factor in the cost for providing a physical workspace, and any of the perks that employees might enjoy by nature of working on-site versus working from home.

How has your organization adapted to the WFH model and its related benefits? 

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Neil Reichenberg, Former Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR).

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of attention paid to workers who previously spent every day in an office now working entirely from home. Indeed, the percentage of employees who said their employer offered remote work options grew from 39% pre-pandemic to 57% once the pandemic hit the U.S. This is a significant change worth exploring.

But as is so often the case, these “jobs that can be done from anywhere” tend to get a lot more attention than the jobs of those whose presence is required - those folks who will never be able to work from home. This is both the topic of our latest book and a key reason why UKG started The Workforce Institute in the first place.

It’s also why a recent report from CPS HR Consulting caught my eye. The report, titled Leading Through A Pandemic – The Impact of COVID-19 on the Public Sector Workforce found that overall, government employees feel stressed, tired, and anxious. The results are based on a large survey of almost 20,000 public sector employees from 65 governmental organizations – but perhaps most interestingly, more than half of the respondents stated that they were designated as essential workers who need to report to their work sites.  

The survey found disparities in the results from essential workers required to report to work and those who are working remotely. Both essential and remote workers by a large percentage (42 percent of essential and 34 percent of remote workers) reported that their workloads have increased. Over 80% of essential workers said they have the equipment and supplies to protect themselves and can socially distance from co-workers at work. 94% of remote workers reported that they have the tools, technology, and home environment to be productive and 85% of respondents who did not work at home previously want to either work from home permanently or at least part-time.

The differences between essential and remote workers point out the importance of governments developing different strategies to address the needs of their workforces. As compared to remote workers, essential employees were less satisfied with how their organizations have adapted to COVID-19, their knowledge of organizational policies, understanding their health resources and benefits, and the communications received from leaders, managers and coworkers.

The report concludes that “Public-sector employers must therefore ensure that essential employees have the information, tools and support they need, especially if they are risking their health and safety to serve constituents. This includes guarding against creating two classes of employees – remote and essential – who could be perceived as the haves and have nots.”

The report also includes recommendations for leaders including:

The report notes that remote work can expand the geographic search for talent, which could enhance the ability of government to recruit and retain the mission critical talent it needs.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on how we think of remote work, but we also must not lose sight of those whose jobs require them to report to work each day and whose willingness to do so we all rely on and benefit from.

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