The pandemic has shown that work-from-home arrangements are feasible and often beneficial for many employers and employees. That includes state government employees, so an effort by the Missouri legislature to expand remote work options for state employees makes sense.
There aren’t many global crises that fundamentally alter American society in the future. Arguably the only events of the last century that qualify were the Great Depression, World War II and, now, the pandemic. It will be clearly classified at this level of historical significance. America’s economy, its politics, health care, social habits and more have been transformed in ways that are unlikely to return to previous shape anytime soon, if ever.
For the average American, the changes in the way we work have been particularly profound. Remote work, a relatively rare luxury before the pandemic, has suddenly become a necessity for millions of workers and their employers.
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Obviously, many types of work do not lend themselves to being done from a table at home. But many do, especially in bureaucratic government enclaves. At some point earlier in the pandemic, about 25% of Missouri state employees were doing their jobs remotely. How these various workers and their supervisors experienced this arrangement undoubtedly ran the gamut between good, bad, and indifferent. But for many employees, it opened up new possibilities for quality of life, while many of their bosses no doubt saw it as an opportunity to increase their efficiency.
Another effect of the pandemic has been to shine a light on aspects of society’s infrastructure that are lacking. Many workers in Missouri who might have been eligible to work remotely were unable to do so effectively because internet availability is not as reliable in some areas of the state as it should be. That and other issues would be on the agenda of a new “Missouri State Employee Labor Task Force” proposed in legislation by Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal.
The task force would include members of the legislature, government departments and the tech industry. They would come up with policies to allow many state employees to work remotely — not just in emergency situations like a pandemic, but permanently. A crucial part of that effort would be other pending legislation addressing Missouri’s broadband weaknesses, an effort that should be facilitated with the current availability of federal dollars.
That most workers who can Work at home should is a larger debate, which necessarily involves issues such as employee collaboration and the sense of community that office culture can bring. But just as the charm of the horse and buggy was not going to prevent the transformative rise of the automobile, it can be argued that, like it or not, a large and permanent work-from-home culture is the reality. . of the post-pandemic future. The more the Missouri government prepares for this future, the better.