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EDITORIAL: Nevada should consider telecommuting for state workers

Elected officials and bureaucrats are exceptionally adept at spending other people’s money, though they’re rarely as accomplished at saving it. But perhaps a simple program implemented in Tennessee can serve as a blueprint for Nevada officials to save taxpayers a few bucks.

The reform involves allowing an increasing number of state employees to avoid the office. Under Tennessee’s Alternative Workplace Solutions initiative, about 6,000 state workers give up their office space to work remotely either at home or in the field.

The benefits have been myriad, according to Governing magazine. Internal surveys reveal that managers — many of whom were initially skeptical — report increased productivity and a reduction in sick leave. A great majority of employees participating in the initiative say the option affords them more flexibility and a better work-life balance while sparing them commuting costs.

“By the end of (the 2018-19) fiscal year,” the magazine noted last November, “Tennessee says it will have likely cut its real-estate rental costs by $6.5 million. Next year, it plans to sell one of its downtown Nashville office buildings, which is no longer needed. That could give the state an extra $40 (million) to $60 million.”

The Tennessee experiment was such a success that both North Carolina and Utah started their own work-at-home pilot programs. Reason magazine reported that Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announced this month that the state will expand its program to include about 2,500 employees who will now be allowed to work from home a few days each week.

“Utah’s government predicts tens of millions of dollars of savings just from spending less on real estate,” Reason explained. State officials also hope that “allowing telework will make rural areas that have lost population more attractive places to move.”

These types of programs must be set up, of course, to ensure taxpayers aren’t being shortchanged by government workers who abuse the freedom to work remotely. But a number of studies back up Tennessee’s positive experience while refuting the stereotype of the unsupervised telecommuting slacker. For instance, a two-year Stanford study of a travel agency conglomerate showed “an astounding productivity boost” among those working from home, Inc. magazine reported last year.

“Employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among telecommuters,” the periodical revealed, “they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days and took less time off.” In addition, workers found it “less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.”

Increased productivity, happier workers and fewer taxpayer dollars spent on office space. What’s not to like? When they reconvene in Carson City for the 2021 session, Nevada lawmakers should consider adopting a similar program for state workers.

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