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Which of California’s Departments Are Most Remote Friendly?

A survey of 112 of the state’s agencies found that more than half allow the vast majority of their employees to work remotely and 49 departments gave telework eligibility to 100 percent of their employees in May.

California state employees in 22 departments are spending more than 90 percent of their days working remotely, according to Department of General Services data from its dashboard.

State agencies underwent a rocky migration to work-from-home three years ago with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But since early last year, many departments have been requiring workers to come back to the office. The Public Employees’ Retirement System ordered most employees back for three days a week. The Franchise Tax Board currently requires teleworker-eligible staff and supervisors to work in-person at least two days per week.

Data from the Department of General Services’ telework dashboard paints a mixed picture. Many departments allow some employees to work remotely, but few state employees can still do their jobs from home 100 percent of the time.

The data represents 112 of 146 departments and covers about 198,000 employees out of the state’s roughly 218,000. While the Department of General Services dataset remains incomplete, it provides the most detailed picture available of department-by-department telework practices.

The latest available data, from May, shows that more than half of the 112 participating departments allow the vast majority of their employees — more than 90 percent — to work remotely. But only 18 of those departments let their workers telecommute 90 percent or more of their workdays.

Data for June will be available in mid-August, according to the dashboard.

As the downtown workforce gradually returns, some areas of downtown are starting to bustle again with daytime activity. The Downtown Sacramento Partnership sponsors two weekly farmer’s markets — on Wednesdays on Capitol Mall and on Thursdays at Cesar Chavez Plaza — in the hopes of drawing office workers back to the downtown core.

“The advent of large-scale telework among state employees is a huge challenge for our downtown and the small businesses that depend on a steady flow of customers,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. Steinberg has previously called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the heads of state departments to bring state workers back to their offices at least a few days each week.

The mass exodus of office workers from downtown during the pandemic forced the area to reinvent itself and find new ways to bring in revenue, said Mike Testa, president of Visit Sacramento. Testa’s organization focused heavily on marketing Sacramento as a leisure destination, and also a place for businesses to host their conventions. The Golden 1 Center also turned downtown into a destination for sports.

“That one piece that I hope we’re not missing is that local presence of office workers downtown,” Testa said.

Brady Yates, a personnel analyst with the State Water Resources Control Board, works from home almost every day. She loves it.

On Thursdays, she’ll drive about 6 miles from her home in the Greenhaven neighborhood to her office downtown. Parking costs $10 a day – more than it used to, Yates says, now that more people are driving in.

“I can handle one day a week,” said Yates, who’s worked with the water board for more than 10 years. “But I don’t need to come in any more than that.”

The board is one of 49 departments that granted telework eligibility to 100 percent of its employees in May.

Yates enjoys seeing her colleagues in the office on Thursdays. Sometimes, a group of them will walk a block to the once-a-week Bodega Days market in Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Yates hopes her department will continue giving workers the flexibility to report remotely on most days. But she acknowledges that agencies could decide to change the rules “at any moment.”

Tracking Remote Work in California State Government

All departments are required to provide telework data for the previous month by the end of the next month, but 34 didn’t for the month of May, according to the dashboard. The Department of General Services, which maintains the dashboard, has asked those departments to provide missing data, spokesperson Fallon Okwuosa said in an email.

California departments are free to set their own telework policies, and they’re not required under state law to specify how many days employees must come to the office.

While some department directors allow full-time telework, others require employees to come to the office for one day or more each week, even if their work can be performed remotely, often citing work culture and collaboration as reasons to call in staff.

Many state jobs can’t be performed remotely though, especially in prisons, hospitals and other public safety departments. Most agencies have at least a few jobs that can only be done in-person.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which reported the largest number of total state employees in the dashboard, only allows about 12 percent of its more than 37,000 employees to work remotely.

In contrast, Caltrans, the second-largest department to report data, allows about 60 percent of its nearly 22,000-person workforce to work remotely.

Which Departments are Most Supportive of Telework?

Excluding departments that have fewer than 20 employees, there are 63 departments where more than 90 percent of employees were eligible for telework. All but 12 departments had a “telework rate” greater than 50 percent, meaning that most telework-eligible employees spent more than half of their workdays telecommuting. The telework rate can be viewed as a proxy for the number of telework days allowed per week: An 80 percent telework rate translates to four telework days per week, 60 percent to three days, etc.

Employees in only two departments managed to avoid going into their offices for the entire month of May (all employees were remote, and they all worked 100 percent of their days remotely). Those were the California Workforce Development Board and the California Privacy Protection Agency. Both have fewer than 100 employees.

Use the table below to see what percentage of employees are eligible for telework in each department, and also the department’s telework rate:

©2023 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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