After months of development, government agencies could soon have standardized guidelines for remote working.
Chris Moreland, Public Information Officer for the Office of Administration, said government agencies have worked with OA to identify alternative labor standards for all departments.
The departments are discussing standards for delivering training, regular face-to-face meetings, mentoring, onboarding and performance measures for employees working outside of the typical office environment, Moreland said.
“The departments develop plans that identify positions that are suitable for alternative work and how they meet those standards,” said Moreland. “These plans will be discussed with the governor’s office prior to implementation.”
Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said some agencies have submitted their distribution work plans to Governor Mike Parson and they are currently under review.
Distribution work refers to employees who work outside of the usual office environment of a department, including temporary or permanent work from home.
Many government employees started working remotely after offices closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parson ordered state officials to return to work in person on May 17.
According to OA earlier this month, around one in five government employees has been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Parson told reporters Thursday that he hoped to have some sort of distribution work plan implemented in the near future.
Assessing the workload and determining the success of remote workers were emerging concerns for the governor, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Thursday.
Jones said none of the plans had been approved by Friday afternoon.
Jennifer Battson Warren, assistant director of the Department of Conservation, said the state agency hadn’t finalized a distributed work plan as of Wednesday.
The Department of Conservation closed its Commission headquarters August 17-20 after two positive COVID-19 cases were identified among staff.
Instead of closing a single capsule or floor where the case was identified, an estimated 300 employees were sent home to work remotely, according to Warren because one of the positive individuals was working with other employees throughout the property, preventing possible spread from being pinpointed.
Warren said the Department of Conservation regularly has team members working from remote locations because of the lack of space to house them or the nature of their work.
“The Department of Conservation has done distributed work and remote work since its inception,” said Warren. “Our nature conservation officers, many of our field staff, our fishermen, biologists, foresters, all of these people work in a distributive manner because their work is on site.”
Warren said the department’s work from home guidelines share the same principles as other government departments, with attendance and work time guidelines that set core working hours.
“Everyone has performance goals to do their annual job,” said Warren. “Regardless of where a person works, we have attendance and working time arrangements, we have teleworking agreements that people have to sign when they have some kind of full-time or even part-time remote status and then the annual performance goals that help us manage their individual performance to ensure the tasks get done. “
The governor has been working with the state departments since May to lay a solid foundation for what the distribution work would look like for each agency.
“We are working with all other government agencies to make sure we meet these basic expectations,” said Warren.