COVID changing ‘normal’ for municipal jobs

Nov 10 • COVID-19, Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on COVID changing ‘normal’ for municipal jobs

By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

The “new normal” may soon manifest itself in very real ways in Chatham-Kent, saving the municipality millions.

On Monday council unanimously approved to continue allowing employees to work from home until March 2021 and to develop a formal Working Remotely Policy beyond the pandemic.

At the September meeting, South Kent Coun. Trevor Thompson brought forward a successful motion directing staff into looking at the future of the municipal workplace stating that it may “attract new residents by way of remote workers having improved work-from-home options.”

Since March, approximately 300 municipal employees have been working remotely at least part-time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are expected to maintain their at-home work status until March 2021.

“The survey data has proven that having some employees working remotely at this time is functioning and should be considered as a long-term strategy that will only improve as technology, systems, and processes evolve with time,” reads the report to council.

It is estimated that the new strategy, if implemented, would save taxpayers $12,433 per employee on an annual basis. Data from the report also expects employees to increase their productivity while reducing absenteeism and turnover rates.

Employees working remotely are also estimated to pocket an extra $1,939 per year through reduced purchase of fuel, insurance and clothing, even when taking into account the increase in electricity costs associated with home offices, according to the report.

Don Shropshire said the municipality will have to find ways to balance the remote working while also ensuring staff does not remain socially isolated and can maintain good relations across the work sectors, which is becoming increasingly easier through online video conferencing.

“The opportunity to work from home certainly has a number of advantages, but some offsets,” he said. “But our current work remote policy is voluntary. We have not gone on record as saying we require people to work from home.”

All jobs that lend themselves to direct community service are expected to remain in person once the pandemic resumes.

“But I haven’t had any of my directors reports that they’re really sorry they can’t see me every day,” he jokingly added.

The Working Remotely Policy, if council approved would be fully implemented in 2021 to annually approve those working remotely for the upcoming calendar year.

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