Bill Description: Senate Bill 1261 would impose limits and regulations on remote work by state employees.
Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?
Senate Bill 1261 would create Section 59-1027, Idaho Code, to limit remote work (called "telework" in statute) "in any of the three (3) branches of state government, including institutions of higher education."
These new limits would say that "if the agency administrator or department director of a state office opts to participate in a telework policy schedule for its state employees, no more than fifteen percent (15%) of the total number of in-office employees that are scheduled to work on any given day may be permitted to telework on that day."
This would impose a significant limitation on remote work across state government. A one-size-fits-all policy rarely fits anyone well, and allowing greater flexibility for agencies and institutions to address their unique employee needs and circumstances seems like a more prudent policy.
The bill would also say, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, in-office employees with job responsibilities that require direct contact with the public through in-person or phone interactions shall not be eligible for telework."
This blanket prohibition on remote work by those who interact with the public via phone seems particularly unnecessary because remote workers are fully capable of handling phone interactions, and this is common practice in the private sector.
Employees who are permitted to work remotely would be required to "enter into a telework agreement" and failing to comply "with any aspect of such telework agreement shall void the agreement and preclude the employee from participating in another telework agreement for three (3) years."
Among the list of limitations placed on remote workers by these strict telework agreements would be a requirement that they "shall remain available at the designated telework location … during regular work hours." This requirement appears to preclude agencies from allowing employees to work irregular hours or from varying locations.
More broadly, remote work can have a number of personal and societal benefits, though the specifics will vary from employee to employee. The benefits include reduced traffic, reduced wear and tear on vehicles, lower stress and improved health for employees, larger talent pools, and less need for expensive commercial office space — all potential benefits to taxpayers when applied to the public sector.
Opposition to remote work might make sense for departments and agencies that want an excuse to build expensive buildings and fill them with overpriced furniture, but for those who prefer a lean government that minimizes unnecessary expenditures, remote work is a cost-saving measure that should be encouraged and expanded.
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