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Three-quarters of county employees to work from home for good

Friday, September 17, 2021 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court is moving ahead with an unprecedented initiative to dramatically increase the number of county teleworkers, with the lofty goal of having 75 percent of county employees permanently working from home. In June, the county hired Deloitte Consulting to help smooth the process.

Travis County Human Resources Director Shannon Weidauer delivered the update to commissioners.

“As you may recall, we kicked off this effort with the ambition of the court to enable 75 percent of eligible employees to telework on a permanent basis,” Weidauer said. “The early stages are already indicating that, yes, our productivity has not decreased and in some areas is in fact increasing. So we’re going to need to take more of a deeper dive as our journey in this adaptive workplace continues.”

The county says it has already saved $1.3 million on utilities, its largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, emissions from employee commutes – the county’s second largest carbon output source – have been cut by 30 percent.

According to a presentation from Deloitte representative Mayra Marquez, some of the consultant’s recommendations include making sure teleworking employees have adequate technology and equipment and enhancing available customer service.

“I have not heard stories of any local government that has undertaken such an ambitious telecommuting program. So I think we have a really remarkable story to tell and I think we’re doing a great job,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said.

Shea also pointed out that while a common worry about telecommuting is that it decreases productivity, the county so far serves as a good counterexample to such rhetoric.

“I think the governor vetoed or refused to support telecommuting for state employees, because people claimed that the state employees would be sitting around in their pajamas watching TV at home,” Shea said. “And now we now know that that’s just wrong. People get their work done and they get it done quicker.”

Weidauer said the county is currently in the “60th percentile” toward its 75 percent telework goal.

“We are well on our way and I think there is ample room for more opportunity as we continue to build the infrastructure around this project.”

At the end of Deloitte’s review process, Deloitte and Human Resources will provide further information to guide commissioners on the issue moving forward.

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