State and Local Leaders Raise Concerns About Remote Work Hurting Productivity

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Government finance and administrative officials responding to a recent survey also said that their departments have taken on more work during the coronavirus pandemic.

State and local government finance and administrative leaders who responded to a recent survey raise concerns that productivity will take a hit if their staff continue the types of remote work arrangements that have become common during the coronavirus pandemic.

They also say that their departments have taken on added responsibilities since the virus struck and lack technology needed to support staff working from home.

The survey of 500 state and local leaders, conducted over the summer on behalf of the business technology company SAP Concur, found that, on average, only 28% of staff in finance and administration departments could continue to work from home without losses in productivity as states fully reopen from coronavirus-related closures.

A little over two-thirds of the finance and administrative officials surveyed, or 67%, indicated that their departments were handling three or more new responsibilities since the onset of the pandemic. That figure was 72% when looking just at local government.

Meanwhile, 88% of survey respondents said that they were struggling to some degree with remotely accessing “project-related information and tools.” Some of the biggest challenges in this area included difficulties with employees getting what they needed from coworkers (47%) and lacking remote access to project files (46%).

Nearly half of respondents also said that complying with required state and federal reporting requirements was a major challenge because of delays with remote work processes.

There are signs that governments are making technology investments to better adapt to the coronavirus-era, with about three-quarters of those surveyed saying that the pandemic sped-up their departments’ decisions to invest in cloud-based budget management technology.

The survey was conducted online between July 20 and Aug. 7 among both elected officials and senior civil servants who have financial decision-making authority. Results were released on Monday. The margin of error was +/- 4.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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