In 2009, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, like many state agencies, found it challenging to stay competitive when hiring for new positions. Restricted budgets did not allow for increased starting salaries, bonuses, or other incentives that competing companies may offer. In some instances, new employees took pay cuts if they accepted a position with the department. To address the issue, some managers proposed more flexible work arrangements, but security requirements, limited technology, and policies held the department back.
Two years later, a new department director placed a stronger focus on flexibility and technological innovation. The State of Colorado started utilizing Google Government, allowing access to email and files from anywhere using secure servers. The director encouraged managers to be more creative with hiring solutions, and several managers implemented alternate schedules. The 9-80 schedule (working eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day, followed by a day off) or four, 10-hour days per week were adopted. To ensure that people are available for meetings, employees are required to be in the office Tuesday through Thursday, limiting flex days to Mondays or Fridays.
The new schedule options allowed managers more flexibility when hiring new staff. While salaries may not be competitive compared to private sector jobs, allowing employees some scheduling options increased interest in the department. More than 90% of people in the Department are on a flexible schedule, and many work from home one day per week. Managers are learning to switch their accountability focus from input (sitting in the office everyday) to output (meeting expectations for work product, no matter the employee’s hours/location).
Days off based on flex time are limited to Mondays and Fridays, however, the office is still open five days per week. Sometimes issues come up on a Monday or Friday that must be dealt with by a staff member who is not in the office. While handled by others when possible, there are occasions when someone must be contacted on a day off.
After the teleworking policy started, one manager was hired with the agreement that flex-time and tele-working would be included. It proved challenging to create professional relationships and trust without having the manager in the office regularly. This need for managerial relationships has limited managers from having the same level of flexibility as other staff.
While there are challenges associated with teleworking within public health, the policy has allowed the chronic disease programs to stay competitive in the job market and is helpful as a negotiating tool during hiring. To make implementation successful, it’s important to:
1) Put the necessary technology in place so that communication between the office and outside workspaces is seamless;
2) Ensure that your culture is ready for the change; and
3) Take the time to review which positions will be eligible for these offerings.
Colorado found it challenging to hire talented new staff due to high employment competition and budget constraints.
After ensuring technology could support the change, the department began to institute teleworking and flex-time policies.
The policy changes allowed the department to be more competitive in hiring and maintaining staff.