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Utah Expands Teleworking Program After Successful Pilot

State officials in Utah hope to roll out a teleworking program for 2,555 eligible employees during the next 18 months to reduce vehicle emissions, save taxpayer dollars and increase staff productivity.

Utah is implementing a statewide teleworking program for about 2,500 of its employees after officials deemed a pilot program deployed last fall to be a success.

Four state agencies took part in the pilot, which had 136 people work from home three days a week while reporting their performance and commutes. Lawmakers hope to scale the program to allow 2,555 commuting employees to participate in the next 18 months and save 1,300 pounds of monthly emissions and 63,900 square feet of building space.

Kristen Cox, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said a decreased use of office workspaces correlates to a lower maintenance cost for the state and those savings can be redirected to programs benefiting Utah residents. For example, with teleworking, the Department of Health can vacate a building and lease it to the University of Utah for $222,000, she said.

“For the last five years, we have zeroed in on increasing the efficiency of state government,” Kristen Cox said in a prepared statement. “This program not only increases the efficiency of employees, who accomplish more when they can work from home in close collaboration with their managers and co-workers ­­­— but it also drastically increases the efficiency of state-owned and operated spaces.”

The pilot, overseen by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), measured a 20 percent improvement in the performance of teleworking personnel. Employees from DAS, the Department of Technology Services, the Department of Human Resource Management and the Department of Insurance gave up their assigned workstations and moved to a shared environment during the two days they did not telecommute.

Staff who volunteered to take part in the pilot had to show a suitable workspace in their home that could be dedicated to their job, provide information on the vehicle they use to commute and agree to share a workstation with their rotating colleagues.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox expressed his approval of the rollout during a press conference Monday in Salt Lake City. The program is designed to increase building capacity and efficiency; boost employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction; provide job opportunities in rural Utah; decrease air-polluting emissions; and improve staff performance.

“Rolling out expanded teleworking as an option for many more state employees means that everyone wins,” Spencer Cox said in a prepared statement. “Employees win. Managers win. Our air wins. Rural wins. The taxpayer wins.”

State officials searched for similar programs when Utah began exploring the benefits of teleworking, such as Tennessee where 16 state agencies employ about 6,000 workers who partially telecommute. Tennessee’s program has saved state employees $1,800 a month in gas and decreased sick leave by 37 percent since its inception three years ago.

“It is time to see our state workforce transition to this more sustainable, efficient, balanced model,” Spencer Cox said.

Patrick Groves was a staff writer for Government Technology from 2019 to 2020.