Government Spending

Utah Is Letting Lots of Government Employees Work From Home

And it's actually kind of great.


Utah's state government is telling some of its workers to stay home.

After a successful pilot program that allowed 136 state employees to shift to teleworking, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has announced a new initiative that will allow more than 2,500 government employees to share office desks as they work from home a few days each week. The state hopes this reduction in commutes will increase productivity and reduce emissions.

It's a good idea, and it could be model for other states to follow.

Contrary to perceptions that working from home means slacking off, telework means higher productivity. It can help reduce worker absences and unexpected sick days, and it allows work to continue during inclement weather. Employees save time and money, and they have more scheduling flexibility. They also tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, which reduces the costs associated with job turnover and hiring new workers. 

It can also save taxpayers money, by reducing transit subsidies and office real estate costs.

Utah's government predicts tens of millions of dollars of savings just from spending less on real estate, in addition to reducing carbon emissions by 1.3 tons per month. The state government also hopes that allowing telework will make rural areas that have lost population more attractive places to move. 

Tennessee has already had success with teleworking. Governing reported last year that the state has moved 6,000 of the executive branch's 38,000 employees to remote work and hopes to eventually raise that total to 27,000. Program participants have saved an average of $1,800 a year in gas, the state has reduced real estate costs by $6.5 million, and the government plans to sell one of its larger downtown Nashville office buildings, which should translate to another $40 to $60 million in savings.

Federal efforts to expand teleworking have moved more slowly. A Government Accountability Office report from 2013 showed that many federal agencies had failed to act on improving their telework capacities, primarily due to failures to properly track costs and benefits. A more recent report from the Office of Personnel Management, from 2018, found numerous agencies still behind on telework. 

But there's a real potential for savings at the federal level. According to an analysis from the economic consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, published in 2013, effectively implemented federal telework policy could reduce government spending by almost $14 billion a year. The firm estimated up to $3.6 billion in real estate savings, up to $5.8 billion in higher productivity, and up to $1.3 billion in savings from lower absenteeism, along with several other benefits. 

That's not going to single-handedly solve a federal budget that's on pace to run trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, but every little bit could help.

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  1. ” . . . primarily due to failures to properly track costs and benefits . . .”

    I can help them out here. Government workers are all cost and no benefit.

  2. I’m a big fan of paying gov workers to not do anything.

    1. Mos def a fan of sending them home.

  3. The real savings comes from firing most government workers. In the case of the federal government, the savings could exceed tens of billions of dollars per year in less salary and benefits by cutting thousands of positions and whole departments.

  4. I worked for over 30 years in an oil refinery – notort of place where yould want to have the workers running the place from home. Why is it that journalists consider the sort of work that can be done from home as real work?
    Oh, yeah.

    1. Yes but your IT, Human Resources benefits, payroll, legal, accounting, all of those did not need to be onsite.

  5. The old fucks where I work are still clinging to the whole “you come in, put in your 8 hours and go home” mentality. They are convinced that working from home will lower productivity.

    What lowers my productivity is people stopping by my desk every 10 minutes asking me about menial bullshit, people emailing me to ask me to email someone else or stopping me in the hallway to talk about the sportsball game last night or whatever. I get so much more work done at home because there are less distractions. Plus, I’d be able to cut out the time-wasting commute and all the time I put into my appearance and clothing every morning before I head into the office. Shit, I’d probably even get to write twice as many comments if I worked from home.

    1. I could not agree more. There is an 80s mentality of ‘well if I don’t see you at your desk, you are not working’. Well people are just as incapable of not working in the office as they are at home. My best performers have been full remote employees, and I get way more work done on the days I work from home, because I’m not constantly interrupted with drive-bys and other distractions.

      Also, my commute is 90 miles round trip a day. Would you rather me work for 3 more hours or spend that sitting in my car?

      1. Its infuriating! 90 miles every day is such a waste of time and lowers the quality of life for everyone.

        My job is even more insane because we actually already have the VDI infrastructure set up that allows us to remote in to the computer network.

        The office is such a shitty work environment, really.

        1. The cover sheets on the TPS reports.

          We are doing those now. Umm I will resend that.

  6. The biggest problem with telecommuting is bosses who have been trained in MBO – “management by observation”. If they can’t see your busy little fingers pounding a keyboard, you must not be working.
    The biggest advantage of telecommuting is that you are not at your desk when the office busybody comes by collecting ‘contributions’ for the latest birthday/baby/marriage/divorce or whatever. Combined with gas savings, that can add up to a 5% raise.
    The best time I had telecommuting was between being allowed to work from home, and management remembering that they could still drag me into useless meetings by conference call. Most productive 2 months of my career.

    1. I am a manager and that is a terrible way to manage. One of my older bosses was like that, he’d be in the office and thought if he didn’t see you then you weren’t working. Yet he took 600 coffee breaks a day and stared out windows for hours on end.

  7. Why companies bay for expensive office space for jobs that can easily be done at home (and monitored) is beyond me, and goes to a 1980s understanding of how you think someone is working. Just because you see someone in an office doesn’t mean they are doing anything.

    If you have a job, like a call center rep, or a programmer, what does it matter where they are doing it. Let them work from home and avoid all your office BS, drivebys, socials, etc.

    It also helps recruiting and retention; a bigger pool to draw from, and a huge benefit to have people stay. We also can’t compete with the bay area tech guys on salary alone, so we have to be creative and allow a flexible work schedule. I have staff on both coasts and all my directs are remote. I had an employee on site but he was disruptive and not productive, and all my remotes are excellent.

  8. Contrary to perceptions that working from home means slacking off, telework means higher productivity. It can help reduce worker absences and unexpected sick days, and it allows work to continue during inclement weather.

    OK, all of that is true *only* if you have a management organization that has the stones (and the power) to ensure work is getting done. When there are clear metrics for accomplishment.

    But this is government work we’re talking about. None of that exists.

    1. Or maybe this is a subtle ‘fix the glitch’ means of laying off excess force.

      ‘Just a second there professor, we, uh, *fixed the glitch*. So he won’t be receiving a paycheck anymore so it will just work itself out’.

  9. But what fun is being a manager, especially a government manager, if they can’t walk around in front of hordes of employees looking important and getting their asses kissed?

  10. Where do I apply so I can work from my villa in Belize?

    1. Someone will post a link here pretty soon – – – – – – –

  11. So, those that have to stay in the orifice still have to pick up the slack of answering phones, making copies, addressing walk-ins…

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  13. Salt Lake City has become a massive metro-plex reaching from Spanish Wells to Brigham City. A single multi lane road is squeezed between the mountains and the lake. It’s a parking lot. Computing is impossible.

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