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For some state employees, working 'remotely' could become routine

Gove. Doug Burgum said the idea of state employees working remotely will likely continue, even after the coronavirus pandemic eases.

Many state employees had to work from home. Burgum says there was a time of adjustment for that, but he says many of them liked it, and they may have been more productive away from the office.

At a “JEL Leadership Meeting” – JEL standing for “Judicial, Executive and Legislative” -- Burgum said as state agencies are preparing their budget requests, they should look closely at whether some of the work can be done using technology, and if there can be savings because of that.

"Whether that's travel expenses, where we need to rething how much space we have -- 1,600 buildings at 24 million square feet of space --  I think every corporation, every entity is saying, 'Gee, maybe we don't need as much space as we thought we did,' when we have this ability to optimize remote working," Burgum said.

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger was on a panel at that meeting, talking about how his agency has been responding to a change in the way work gets done. He said there were some bumps at the beginning, but he believes it has gone very well.

"We're very proud that we have shown working remotely does work," Rauschenberger said. "And increased productivity -- we've seen that."

Rauschenberger said employees of his department reported less distractions, and not having to commute.

"We have employees that were driving an hour each way," Rauschenberger said. "They saved two hours a day. Just that alone increases somebody's productivity immensely."

State Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer was also a part of that panel.

"Early on, I had a team member say to me, 'If you would have told me six weeks ago that we were going to move home, that we were going to change the way we work, and it was going to be all online,  I would have grumbled,'" Kommer said. "Then he followed up to say, 'Here I am, working at home, and I am more productive and more happy than I've ever been.'"

The JEL meeting came as state agencies are preparing their budget requests to submit to Burgum and the Office of Management and Budget.

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