Both Park City Municipal and Summit County officials have indicated they are open to the idea of extending at least a part-time remote work model after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Despite all of the bad things that came from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a few silver linings.
One in particular was reshaping how many employers and employees see how they get their work done on a daily basis. With thousands of employers in non person-to-person industries shifting to a work from home model over the last 13 months, some have begun to question the necessity of employees at desks in an office -- including local governments here in the Wasatch Back.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said the plan is to have at least some form of remote work continue for county employees into the foreseeable future.
“We’ve learned so much over the last year of how we can do this, not only from the employee standpoint, and how we equip and employees to be able to do that, how our systems that are now in place in order to support that, but also how to manage it,” said Fisher. “The benefit is that it’s opened us up to a lot more possibilities of work schedules that people can work. We can recruit people a little bit differently in some positions. We even have the possibility of looking at some positions that would be 100% remote depending on the job duties of that position.”
Fisher said work schedules will be looked at on a department by department and employee by employee basis.
For example, a job with no significant public-facing aspect to it, like an accountant, could see much of their work continue to be remote. A more public employee, like Fisher himself, would likely see more required office time.
Park City Manager Matt Dias echoed Fisher’s sentiments and added that pre-pandemic, city staff was actually starting to outgrow the Marsac building in Park City, which used to be an elementary school and is now recognized as an historic site.
He said continuing some sort of remote work model could actually save the public significant amounts of money if expensive building renovations or expansions for employee offices at city hall are no longer necessary. As a bonus, the city could also cast a wider net when it comes to hiring for open positions.
“We may have an opportunity here to create some shared workspaces, which would forego the necessity to either annex or make a major renovation or even build a new facility to try to provide all the services that the community is demanding of us,” Dias said. “In the long run, I actually look at this as a savings for the public. I look at this as a way to increase or improve our ability to compete for qualified employees and competent employees and maybe reduce some of the rates of our attrition and beat back on the affordability component of this community.”
One employee in Park City who has taken advantage of remote work is Park City Deputy City Manager David Everitt. Everitt was hired full time by the city at the start of the pandemic last year and commutes to city hall a few times a week.
He said while working from home can be an incredibly useful tool, it also necessitates taking a look at our own work habits. He said while not having to drive up to Park City five or more days a week has given him more time to be in meetings or be available to the public, it also can also create days of nothing more than Zoom calls in front of a computer, which also is not ideal.
“Personally, I can speak to the fact that having that tool available has been enormously helpful,” he said. “I think we’re continually learning lessons around how effective it is and how to be effective using the remote tools. Personally, I’m really, at this point, coming back a few days a week and online the other days and sometimes online while at my desk at city hall so it’s been a really valuable tool.”
Like most things in life, striking a balance will be the best path forward.
Both Fisher and Dias added that a virtual option for city meetings like councils and planning commissions are also here to stay. The amount of public engagement over the last year due to virtual access has been another silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neither Park City Municipal or Summit County are currently requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but both are strongly encouraging it.