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What would remote work mean for Travis County?

Monday, November 29, 2021 by Seth Smalley

In September, Travis County announced its goal to transition 75 percent of its employees to work from home permanently, tasking Deloitte Consulting to smooth the process. On Nov. 18, commissioners convened a special session to examine the findings of Deloitte’s 14-week study on remote work in the county.

The presentation included case studies of other governments and municipalities that are implementing similar programs, as well as a focus on how telework would affect Travis County specifically.

One notable finding included the possibility of reducing 1.1 million square feet of county administrative space (out of the total 1.37 million square feet currently used), which would save money on real estate.

Deloitte recommended condensing all administrative space into the 700 Lavaca block. The money saved could then be invested elsewhere. “This does not factor in mission-critical spaces across the county which continue to serve a purpose for meeting the needs of residents,” Mayra Marquez, a Deloitte representative, said.

Some county roles are not eligible for teleworking, including those focused on maintaining county infrastructure, parks or facility grounds. However, of the county positions that are eligible, Deloitte found 100 percent of them would be able to telework at least one day a week.

“We estimate that the annual individual employee commute could be reduced by 450 miles and Travis County could reduce its overall carbon emissions impact by over 50 percent annually,” Marquez said. “This represents over 10,000 tons of carbon emissions.”

When the subject of video kiosks for county customer interaction was raised, Commissioner Ann Howard asked about its timeline, pointing out that many people still rely on face-to-face interactions for customer service.

“There’s a lot of people alive that we serve who need the face-to-face in a building. I can also imagine that every year we move forward, there’s fewer of those who rely on that,” Howard said.

Deloitte consultant Liz Menard explained that there are a variety of options “that would allow a facility and a location to provide a place for someone to come in and interact with a person or perhaps even interact with someone over a screen, but guided by a person.”

Several other governments, states and local organizations have implemented telework to optimize operational efficiency, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cost savings. Deloitte cited TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, which is offering 73 percent of its workforce the option to work remotely, as a model.

Travis County announced in September that it had already saved $1.3 million in utilities and cut its carbon output by 30 percent as a result of pandemic-prompted remote work.

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