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After months of development, state agencies may soon have standardized guidelines for remote work.

Chris Moreland, public information officer for the Office of Administration, said state agencies have been working with OA to identify alternative work standards for all departments.

Departments are discussing standards for providing training, regular in-person meetings, mentors, onboarding and performance measures for employees working outside the typical office setting, Moreland said.

"Departments are developing plans that identify positions eligible for alternative work and how they will meet those standards," Moreland said. "Those plans will be reviewed with the governor's office prior to implementation."

Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said some agencies have submitted their distributive work plans to Gov. Mike Parson, and they are currently under review.

Distributive work refers to employees working outside a department's usual office setting, including temporary or permanent work from home.

Many state employees began working remotely after offices were closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parson ordered state employees to return to work in-person on May 17.

Approximately one in five state employees have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to data provided by OA earlier this month.

Parson told reporters Thursday he hopes to have some kind of distributive work plan implemented in the near future.

Assessing workload and determining success for remote employees were looming concerns for the governor, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Thursday.

Jones said none of the plans have been approved as of Friday afternoon.

Jennifer Battson Warren, deputy director of business for the Department of Conservation, said the state agency hadn't yet finalized a distributed work plan as of Wednesday.

The Department of Conservation closed its commission headquarters building from Aug. 17-20 after two positive COVID-19 cases were identified among staff.

Instead of closing a single pod or floor where the case was identified, Warren said an estimated 300 employees were sent home for remote work because one of the positive individuals worked with other employees throughout the building so potential spread couldn't be localized.

Warren said the Department of Conservation regularly has team members working from remote locations because of a lack of space to house them or the nature of their job.

"Distributive work and working from remote locations has happened for the Department of Conservation since its inception," Warren said. "Our conservation agents, many of our field staff, our fishers, biologists, foresters, all of those folks are working in a distributive fashion because their work is in the field."

Warren said the department's policies on working from home has the same principles as other state departments, with guidelines for attendance and work hours that establish core working hours.

"Everyone has performance objectives to manage their annual work," Warren said. "So regardless of where a person is working, we've got the attendance and work hours policy in place, we've teleworking agreements that folks have to sign if they're in kind of full-time remote or even part-time remote status and then the annual performance objectives that help us manage their individual performance to ensure the jobs are getting done."

The governor has been working with state departments since May, she said, to establish a firm baseline for what distributive work would look like for each agency.

"We're working along with all the other state agencies to make sure that we've got those baseline expectations covered," Warren said.

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