This week, Connecticut’s Department of Transportation (DOT) brought employees back into the office.
The first “All Hands Wednesday” weekly event saw hundreds of workers return to the DOT headquarters in Newington.
However, the divide between who can work from home and who can’t have left the environment slightly tense. An arbitrator rejected Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s policy that would set limits on how often unionized employees could work remotely.
Through the new rules, agencies can require employees to be in the office at least one day a week, giving workers more control in their telework capabilities.
However, commissioners and department heads are less thrilled about this prospect. Many state employees from the pre-pandemic office culture are gearing up to retire due to a change in pension rules, meaning a significant portion of the workforce will set their sights on remote working.
The arbitration award, which was issued at the end of 2021, showed that the union coalition accepted work arrangements if agencies only required workers to be in the office one day a week.
Travis Woodward, president of one of the largest state bargaining units, said Commissioner Joseph Giulietti violated these rules and set a maximum of 50% for DOT employees’ teleworking capabilities.
“That’s not in line with the arbitration award that we got for the final agreement,” said Woodward. “A lot of people feel side-winded about the commissioner’s decision.”
However, Kafi Rouse, chief communications officer of Connecticut’s DOT, said that the agency is not violating these rules and that the DOT “continues to be in accordance with state law while ensuring the operational needs of the agency are met.”
It is clear that Giulietti values in-person work, as is seen in his 20-page telework policy that was sent to DOT employees last month. The letter stated that workers would abide by a hybrid work policy and emphasized the importance of “working together in a community environment” for collaborative purposes.
The clear divide between employee needs and leaders’ desires has come to a head in recent weeks as companies work to bring employees back into the office. From private businesses to federal agencies, the debate on ideal work arrangements is still a point of contention despite the last two years’ lessons.