Reimagining the World of Work: What Counties Are Considering Now
With COVID cases declining statewide and vaccinations underway, it is essential that County government prepare for the post-pandemic new world of work. Rather than simply carrying forward with our COVID adaptations or falling back into old patterns and habits, we should try to anticipate how to be READY for a return to work.
CSAC recently spoke with Jill Abel, Director of Human Resources and Risk Management for Yuba County, and Melodye Serino, Deputy County Administrative Officer for Santa Cruz County, to understand what they have learned about remote work and how counties can move forward to best meet the needs of residents and requests from employees.
CSAC: Tell us what you have learned this past year about remote work for County government?
Jill: We rapidly transitioned most of our workforce to remote work, including adapting to new methods of delivering services, such as learning to conduct business via Zoom and hosting virtual Board of Supervisors meetings. I think the most important thing we learned though was how flexible and creative we could be in adjusting to employee needs and the expectations of the publics in providing for their health and safety while also maintaining a high level of service delivery.
Melodye: I echo Jill and add that we learned that the office plays a role beyond the physical space where we do our work. It also provides the social “glue” that allows for effective collaboration and highly productive teamwork. While the “screen world” we have been functioning in is efficient, we have heard from employees that they miss the informal connections and conversations with their colleagues that help them get their work done well.
CSAC: Give us a sneak preview of your upcoming workshop “Reimagining the World of Work” at the CSAC Virtual Legislative Conference.
Melodye: Dr. Laree Kiely, with her usual wit and wisdom, is leading this discussion about how we return to work and create this new workplace with intention and compassion. We will be looking at the big picture issues like understanding expectations and honoring equity in our work policies, as well as the operational details such as how the role of management has shifted, new and better ways to measure productivity, and how we can reimagine the use of our physical space.
Jill: Returning to “normal,” whatever that is, requires us to think about many different strands of issues in transitioning virtual employees back to the workplace. It also requires that we include a diverse array of voices in the discussion. We hope participants will start asking themselves questions about who to include at the table to inform decision-making and what concepts, tools, or systems they can employ to create a successful transition.
CSAC: Given the importance of this topic for counties of all sizes, we are all looking forward to what should prove to be a lively discussion and learning opportunity. The “Reimagining the World of Work” will be presented as a workshop during the CSAC Legislative Conference on Thursday, April 22 from 10-11:15 a.m., and also as a full CSAC William “Bill” Chiat Institute for Excellence in County Government course on May 7, 2021.