New telework program called a win for rural state employees, including those in Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE — Utah officials are lauding the results of a pilot teleworking program launched last year to gauge the productivity and performance of state office employees who work from home. Among those benefiting from the program are employees based in Southern Utah.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks in St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“I’ve become an evangelists for telework,” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said during a press conference Monday discussing the results of the program.

Last September, 136 state employees spread across four separate agencies worked at least three days from home while reporting metrics on performance and commutes. At the end of the program, state officials concluded that telecommuting employees saw an overall improvement on performance and productivity of over 20%.

In addition to productivity, the lack of travel to and from an office has saved an estimated 273 pounds of CO2 emissions, according to the results.

“Rolling out expanded teleworking as an option for many more state employees means that everyone wins. Employees win. Managers win. Our air wins. Rural wins. The taxpayer wins,” Cox said. “It is time to see our state workforce transition to this more sustainable, efficient, balanced model.”

The teleworking program will allow state employees who live in rural Utah to stay home more often, and it has already benefited some Southern Utah residents.

Ivins resident Mark Eddington, Gov. Gary Herbert’s lead speechwriter, took up the opportunity to work from home when offered.

“I used to go to the office every day,” Eddington said, noting that his commute into Salt Lake City from his previous home in northern Utah could take up to an hour or more.

Stock image, St. George

Eventually, Eddington and his wife sold their home and moved to Ivins. However, Eddington still maintained an apartment in northern Utah and lived there during the week, only allowing him to be home in Ivins on the weekends.

“When they offered me the chance to telework, I thought it was a great thing,” he said.

With the switch to telecommuting, Eddington said he saved money on automotive costs while also reclaiming time lost to long commutes.

The transition to working from home wasn’t difficult for Eddington, he said, thanks to his background in journalism that enabled him to work from just about anywhere. However, state officials say that may not be the case for all remote-working employees, who will need to undergo training to help with the office-to-home transition.

Helping the state with the teleworking program transition training is Paul Hill, an associate professor based in Washington County who works with the Utah State University Extension program. He is also a part of the Rural Online Initiative, a state program aimed at training individuals with the skills to succeed as professional remote workers.

Part of the office-to-home transition training involves setting up a dedicated workspace and applying best practices for productivity, time management, critical thinking and problem solving. Arrangements also need to be made with family members so they know when the remote employee is working.

“It’s hard to get work done when family sees you and they think you’re available,” Hill said.

The state plans to roll out the program to the rest of its agencies over the next 18 months, allowing over 2,500 state employees to work from home.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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