Human Services reviews pros, cons of remote w
Remote work has been going well for the human services department, with some finding it to be more effective than how they were running things prior to the pandemic.
Human services board member Mike Bub pointed out that while there’s nothing truly good about COVID-19, it has enabled them to discover new ways of doing work, such as holding Zoom meetings with clients as opposed to staff driving back and forth to meet with clients, saying the pandemic forced them to change their work habits for the better.
“I’m really hoping that can continue,” said Bub, voicing his support of the technology forward approach as long as it proves effective and employees can meet their clients’ needs. “It seems to have made the staff more productive. I think it guarantees their safety a little bit more, and we’ve been talking about safety concerns going in to clients’ homes. Now we don’t really have to worry about that.”
In addition, Bub said it was nice to discover that staff can do their training and attend seminars from their offi ce desk, rather than driving to attend them. Not only does that reduce time employees spend out of the offi ce allowing them to focus more on their actual work, but he noted the expenses saved on travel and lodging would be significant. He said in this aspect, it’s a winwin situation, saving tax dollars while employees still receive the training they need.
“It’s not just human services, it’s other departments as well all over the state, but it seems that the only hotel [an employee] can find while traveling is the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, which is a pretty hefty price tag,” Bub commented. “Apparently the Holiday Inn is always booked.”
He included repetitive seminars as being largely unnecessary to attend in general, let alone having to be there in person. As an example, he pointed towards the health department’s sexually transmitted disease informational event that employees attend, saying very little, if any, of the information has changed over the multiple years it’s been held.
“I get concerned when I see people go to the same seminar four years in a row,” Bub said, adding that the same facts can be garnered through a Zoom meeting as through an in-person seminar.
Human services director Liza Daleiden agreed with the benefits of a technology forward approach, and explained they’re looking to continue behavioral health and family training sessions remotely in the future, or at the very least offer it as an option. She also included director’s meetings and supervisors’ meetings in the list of events which could be held virtually, and hosting the meetings through the internet actually allows them to have more meetings than they normally would due to the ease of access; removing the need to travel to a meeting also allows members to attend part of a meeting they may have otherwise missed entirely.
“All counties are saying, ‘wow this is an eye-opener, this works,’” Daleiden said. “It’s going to continue.”
She further supported virtual meetings held on Zoom, saying that the removal of travel has increased her own efficiency: “I can get so much more done. I can work on breaks, I can work on lunch, if there’s an emergency I can mute and step out to deal with it.”
Chairman Rollie Thums wasn’t as happy with virtual meetings, noting microphone and speaker problems can drag meetings out and cause interruptions. He mentioned that they seem too impersonal, and it’s harder to gauge how people are feeling about the topic being discussed since people don’t always turn their cameras on and their faces can’t be seen.
“I don’t like that,” Thums said. “I much prefer being able to talk face-to-face when I’m discussing things.”
As part of their growing reliance on technology, the board briefly discussed their internet provider, Charter. Bub noted that everything else they use, such as their phone service, comes through TDS, and it’s odd they have two different providers. He suggested looking into bundling their services from a single provider, the same way a personal house plan would operate.
★ Approved Human Services’ 2021 budget, to be passed on to the finance committee/county board for finalization.
★ Human Services is seeking a new deputy director, with negotiations ongoing.