Now, 18 months later, with the vast majority of county employees returning to office, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners Council has approved the county’s first remote work policy.
“We’ve been working on the remote work policy for several months now,” County Administrator Larry Kleindl said.
A staff committee was set up to create county policy. It has undergone several revisions and comments have been collected from many departments and employees.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever worked on a policy as much as we’ve worked on this one,” Kleindl said. “We wanted to do it right.”
The first thing Kleindl wants employees to understand is that not all county staff will be able to work from home. Some departments, such as the sheriff’s office or public works, are unlikely to have remote workers, while in other departments, such as public health, it will depend on jobs and individual employees.
“Not everyone will be able to do it, because of the work we are doing in Kandiyohi County,” Kleindl said. “It’s a privilege to work remotely, it’s not a right.”
Connie Mort, the county’s human resources manager, admitted that county policy may be more restrictive than other workplaces, but it was on purpose. There are many requirements and rules that employees must meet and follow in order to be able to work remotely, and if a supervisor decides that this is not working, the agreement can be terminated.
“We expect to maintain the level of customer service that we currently have and that expectation must be met,” Mort said.
Only employees who have worked for the county for at least a year will be allowed to work remotely, and only if their work and individual work ethic is conducive to such a setup. They will need to have adequate Internet access and continue to comply with all aspects of their work as they would in the office.
Due to all of the criteria an employee must meet to be eligible for a remote working arrangement, Kleindl expects only a small fraction of staff to actually work remotely.
“30 to 50 out of 400 employees,” Kleindl said.
The county council unanimously approved the policy, including the necessity.
“Unfortunately, I think there is a need for us to address a policy like this. We need a policy, we have found it with COVID, we have to go this route,” Commissioner Corky Berg said.
Such a policy could also show job seekers that the county is an employee-friendly place to work, with opportunities such as remote working.
“Let’s face it, we fight every day to attract people. We are already struggling to get people to apply for our jobs, let alone take them,” said Commissioner Steve Gardner.
While the new remote work policy offers county staff a new way of doing their jobs, ultimately the customer remains the top priority.
“Customer service must be the first thing,” said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. “Some people are going to have to come to work because it’s their job. We have to take care of our customers.”