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Berkeley city employees approve of teleworking despite incomplete policy

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(The Center Square) – The city of Berkeley’s municipal employees largely support work-from-home options placing pressure on city officials to establish a comprehensive policy.

A report found 64% of Berkeley’s city employees were satisfied with teleworking compared to 15% who disapproved and 21% who remained neutral, according to a report for a city council meeting last week. Even more – 67% – believe that some or all of their job functions could be performed remotely.

The survey also reported that 52% of Berkeley’s municipal employees, said they would seek other employment opportunities if they were no longer allowed to telework.

“This indicates that telework is an important factor in retaining Berkeley employees,” the report stated.

The city started allowing employees to work remotely in March 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city didn’t allow teleworking previously.

Just 17% of city of Berkeley employees live in the city and 25% of city employees stated they had a commute of an hour or longer, the report stated. Teleworking could reduce carbon emissions by reducing drive times and could also increase the quality of applicants for city jobs, according to the report.

The report stated that the city of Berkeley has extended its teleworking option but doesn’t have a comprehensive plan in place.

“Despite employees’ overall support for telework, the City’s existing telework policy is not comprehensive, and does not address accountability issues,” the report stated.

Berkeley’s telework policy, however, isn’t comprehensive and lags behind those for the City and County of San Francisco, Alameda County and the State of California employees.

The city’s current policy leaves eligibility guidelines to departments instead of establishing its own, fails to clarify instructions on distributing equipment to teleworkers, provides no accountability measures for unresponsive employees, offers no training resources or requirements, lacks clear communication guidelines and does not require that employees denied teleworking opportunities receive justification for the denial.

State of California and Alameda County’s telework policies contain all of the above while San Francisco’s policies contain all except for clear communication guidelines and requiring justifications for telework denials, per the agenda.

City officials, in the agenda, recommended that the City of Berkeley expand the policy to align with best practices addressing eligibility, accountability, equipment requests, telework training and denial justifications along with identifying ways to reduce unused space in city office buildings.

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