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Council wants telecommuting analysis for city employees

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

With a pandemic forcing many people to work from home, some Albuquerque officials are wondering if that is a logical place for some in the city’s workforce to stay long term.

The Albuquerque City Council last week asked for a cost-benefit analysis of a telecommuting model for city employees in jobs that do not face the public.

Councilor Klarissa Peña, who co-sponsored the legislation with Lan Sena, said it is worth considering, based on the feedback she said she has heard recently from city employees who are temporarily working from home due to coronavirus.

“Folks are saying they feel it’s been pretty productive,” she said in an interview. “They feel they’re able to get more things done.”

The duo’s resolution cleared City Council on a unanimous vote Monday. It calls on the city’s Office of Management and Budget to evaluate partial and complete teleworking models for the city, taking into account which positions are suitable, as well as any possible savings and costs associated with a more remote workforce.

The analysis, which would be due Aug. 1, will also explore the “potential for conversion” of some full-time positions to part-time based on efficiencies, something Councilor Brook Bassan questioned before ultimately voting for the analysis.

“It’s a little challenging to think about doing more job cuts,” she said before the vote.

The analysis should be available as the city is completing its fiscal year 2021 budget, and sponsors stressed that it was merely a way to bring more information to the table.

“It is just a study to analyze the current situation and what we could be doing in terms of savings – just a better scope … and tool to make these important decisions,” Sena said during the meeting.

Sarita Nair, the city’s chief administrative officer, noted Monday that only a small portion – about 10% – of the city’s roughly 6,000-person workforce is actually telecommuting, even now. Many, such as code inspectors and parks maintenance workers, work in a “remote dispatch” setup.

But Nair said she supported the idea of a telecommuting analysis, particularly because Bernalillo County employees are slated to leave the shared city-county building next year in favor of new county headquarters.

“It’s a good time to think about reallocation of space,” Nair said.

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