PORT TOWNSEND — Employees are more efficient working from home than in the office, Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners acknowledged as they unanimously approved a telecommuting policy that will be in effect after the COVID-19 precautions are no longer needed.
During the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” mandate, which expired Monday, PUD employees able to work from home were asked to do so.
An unintended result was increased efficiency and workflow, the staff reported.
“We need to let people work from home,” said General Manager Kevin Streett during the Tuesday meeting.
“In some instances, we have been more productive and our processes have been improved with them working from home. So there are not only advantages to the employee, there’s advantages to the PUD.”
Through this new policy, PUD employees who want to do their jobs from home and are otherwise eligible to do so can apply for telecommuting.
The general manager will determine eligibility, with approval from the employee’s manager or director, if applicable.
“Before this coronavirus, I don’t think I would have supported a work-at-home policy because it is kind of foreign to the utility industry,” Streett said. “But it has really worked out well here.”
Employees also would meet with the human resources manager for the PUD to determine if the plans set forth with their managers are feasible. That includes identifying the job responsibilities, equipment needs and any other variables.
The employee must demonstrate proficiency in the prescribed programs, show they can perform their duties with little oversight and can communicate effectively, and be in the office if needed, the policy said.
Positions comprised primarily of computer and phone-based tasks, without the need for intensive oversight and training or use of specialized equipment, programs or networks are examples that could be eligible for telecommuting.
Telecommuting employees will be continuously evaluated and will go through the same annual employee performance review process, the policy said.
The PUD has budgeted about $70,000 to cover the costs of equipment that may be needed by employees who choose to work from home, depending on what kind of arrangement has been set up between the employee and their manager.
If any equipment provided by the company and taken home by the employee is damaged, the employee must have it replaced but will be reimbursed.
Some of the equipment employees can take home include printers, keyboards, computer mouse devices, headsets and, if necessary, computers.
Keyboards, computer mouse, and headsets come with $30 reimbursements while printers would be $250. Computers would not be eligible for reimbursement, according to Melanie Patterson, human resources manager.
“I just wanted to compliment Kevin and Melanie for coming up with some processes to keep people working yet safe during this time,” PUD Commissioner Jeff Randall said.
“It sounds like you have been tracking productivity of the staff as a whole in terms of processing tasks and getting things done, and you’re actually seeing improvements over when everybody was in the office,” he continued.
“I think we should always be looking for ways to be more productive,” Randall said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.