Moving Forward with Work From Home for City Employees

Last week, DataKC surveyed the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s work from home employees for the third time (find info here about the first and second surveys).

As discussed in our last post, the previous survey established a bi-weekly rhythm of surveys. This frequency allows us to add to our respondent base (we have been working in parallel to make sure our telecommuting employees are on the registered list) as well as add new questions that dig deeper into the work from home experiences of our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of each survey period, the results are presented back to the City’s management team for review and discussion.

As the survey has evolved, questions shifted from a focus on technology and work environment to work culture and connection with colleagues. In this survey, we delved deeper into productivity and preferences for telecommuting in the future. We also began asking questions about whether employees are supervisors and if they have children under 18 at home to better understand the nuances and sentiment about productivity and satisfaction of working from home.

Third Survey Results

  • 414 employees took the most recent survey that began April 22, a little over half of the 780 employees registered to telecommute as of that date. According to these telecommuting registration numbers, 17% of the City’s employee base is currently working from home.
  • The majority of employees (78%) are working from home full-time (five days a week), with the remainder splitting their time between home and office, with three to four days at home (18%) or one to two days at home (5%). Supervisors are more likely to be splitting time between the office and home (33%) than non-supervisors (20%).
  • The major insight derived from the latest survey is the extremely high level of interest our work from home employees have in continuing this arrangement after this crisis has ended: 97% of employees are interested in some form of telecommuting.
  • We also added new questions to try to understand productivity from the employees’ point of view. 89% of employees feel more productive or as productive teleworking as working on-site. For the most part, these employees say that they are completing their normal course of work from home.
  • Similarly, 73% of employees working from home feel they are able to serve their usual customers (internal or external) and 22% feel they can serve some customers, but not all. Only 1% said they cannot serve their current customers at all.
  • Satisfaction with working from home continues to be high (85%) and dissatisfaction is low (4%). Satisfaction with working from home is similar whether you are a supervisor or have children at home. However, staff without children at home have an 11% higher very satisfied (59% without children vs 48% with children).
  • Supervisors and non-supervisors had similarly strong feelings of connection with colleagues (77% feel connected or very connected).
  • Non-supervisor feelings of connection with their supervisors is slightly higher (86%) than supervisor connection with their supervisors (79%)
  • The top 3 ways that employees receive updates about the City’s employee programs and policies during emergency operations are their supervisor, department director and co-workers. Traditional communication platforms like the city website, intranet and social media were further down the list.
  • In just over 4 weeks, since the start of surveying, there has been a 42% increase in the number of employees who used video chat with their co-workers and their supervisor while working from home. The main reason some employees don’t use video chat is because their supervisor doesn’t require it.

Preview of Survey 4:

  • For the upcoming survey, we are focused on filling in any gaps in telework registration so we can get the survey out to everyone who is working from home.
  • We will continue to dig into concepts of productivity and the factors behind this, as well as perceptions of supervisors.
  • As we approach the end of the designated Stay At Home order (May 15), this may be our last bi-weekly survey. We will continue to gather information as needed from our employees to inform policy development and other efforts.
  • We may seek to survey or otherwise gather feedback from employees who have been working in the office during this time period, to understand how the telework emergency policy implementation has impacted teams that are split between work from home and office locations.

Use of the Survey Results

  • Questions about preferences for telecommuting in the future were added because City leadership was beginning to consider a permanent policy in this arena. The strong support for telecommuting as an ongoing benefit/arrangement underscores these efforts to develop a policy which would be applicable after any pandemic/crisis period has ended.
  • At the same time, City leadership has convened a Return to Work committee to develop guidelines for City employees after the May 15 Stay at Home order is lifted. The success of emergency telecommuting efforts, combined with the need to keep employees safe will likely lead to a gradual step down of telecommuting rather than a rapid return to work of all employees.
  • Many survey respondents from Surveys #1 and #2 responded that they would like to receive more direct communication from leadership regarding employee policies. Based on that feedback, the interim City Manager and City Communications sent out an email this week to all teleworking employees that updated them on the survey results and current policy development efforts.

Closing Thoughts:

During this time of rapid policy development and iteration, the telecommuting survey continues to deliver insights to our City leadership that will be utilized in the near term (next few months) as well as beyond.

Since the last Medium article, we’ve connected with a few other government organizations who had questions about the survey and/or are looking to implement a similar type of survey. We welcome any questions from staff in other cities/counties/states about the survey and would love to hear about and share information about the general state of their teleworking programs during this crisis as well.

-DataKC

Thanks to Kate Bender for writing this post.

h/t to Bo McCall for survey coordination, administration, analysis, and storytelling.

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The official Medium page for Kansas City’s DataKC. DataKC is the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s Central Data Team.

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DataKC

The official Medium page for Kansas City’s DataKC. DataKC is the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s Central Data Team.