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News » Idaho limits remote work for state employees to 20%

Idaho limits remote work for state employees to 20%

IDAHO, UNITED STATES — In a move to standardize work environments, the Idaho Division of Human Resources, under the guidance of Governor Brad Little, has set a significant limit on remote work for state employees

As of this spring, no more than 20% of an agency’s workforce may work remotely on any given day, except for field workers and those who qualify for a rural exemption—living more than 50 miles from the nearest office.

Janelle White, administrator for the Division of Human Resources, said the goal was “statewide consistency” balanced between promoting teamwork through in-office presence and allowing remote flexibility. 

“The overall percentage gives flexibility for agency directors to determine what is most appropriate for their agency while also maintaining consistency statewide.”

Agencies under Gov. Brad Little’s oversight must adhere to the policy, though other elected officials may implement their own rules. Employees must receive permission and training before teleworking.

Reasoning behind the remote work restrictions in Idaho

Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, who sponsored the failed remote work legislation Senate Bill 1261, cited constituent complaints as the impetus. 

“This is not as good as talking face to face,” Guthrie told the Idaho Capital Sun. “And anybody that says different, we just have to agree to disagree, because it’s not the same.”

Guthrie argued that remote employees are often distracted, leading to lower quality interactions compared to in-person meetings. 

“When you’re having to connect to somebody at home, and they’re doing laundry or watching kids or the dogs barking or whatever, and they’re distracted…. It’s not as good of quality interaction as face to face is. … Or even on the phone, where somebody is in an office and has access to all their data and all their information,” he explained.

Minimal impact on turnover 

White reported that while “the change was unwelcome for some state employees, most were minimally impacted and we have not see(n) a major spike in turnover.” She cited Little’s desire to make Idaho appealing for families, extending to state worker policies.

At the Department of Health and Welfare, 37 employees mentioned telework in exit interviews, though overall turnover is at 13.3%, slightly lower than 14.6% of the previous year.

The department expects $300,000 in operational costs from returning staff to offices, but has not acquired additional space.

Nebraska state workers also ordered back to offices

An escalating legal fight between the U.S. state of Nebraska and a public employees union centers on remote work policies for state workers.

The Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE), representing over 8,000 state employees, filed a motion asking the Lancaster County District Court to hold the state in contempt. 

This comes after agency heads disregarded a previous court ruling temporarily halting Governor Jim Pillen’s order requiring employees to return full-time to offices in 2024.

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