City of Portland remote employees will transition to hybrid work in 2022

News Article
More than half the City’s employees have worked remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The City will ask them to return to worksites at least one day per week.

Update: Dec. 21, 2021

Due to emerging projections about the impact of the Omicron variant in Oregon, the City of Portland is delaying the requirement for teleworking employees to transition to a hybrid schedule. The City will monitor public health information to determine when to move forward with the plan for expanding in-person work.

City of Portland employees who have been working remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will return to worksites at least one day per week in early 2022, the City announced Dec. 6.

More than half the City’s 6,900 employees have worked primarily from home since March 2020, while others have continued performing in-person work such as responding to emergencies, caring for parks, conducting permitting and inspections, serving customers, or maintaining vehicles and facilities.

Under the new policy, currently remote employees will be asked to report to their worksite for one day in late January to reacclimate, then establish a regular schedule beginning in February – with a baseline of one day per week in-person. Bureaus have the option to require more in-person work to meet business needs, or to approve exceptions for special circumstances.

“We intend to blend the benefits of remote work with the benefits of in-person work, creating a culture of flexibility and reaffirming our commitment to public service,” Chief Administrative Officer Tom Rinehart said.

In conjunction with the City’s transition to a hybrid workplace model, in-person meetings of the City Council and many boards, commissions and advisory committees will resume by spring 2022. Public health and safety will be a focus, including remote participation options for volunteers and community members.

City leaders recognize that remote work has helped employees reduce commute times, increase focus, and juggle personal and family responsibilities, Rinehart said. They are asking employees to transition to hybrid schedules to enhance collaboration and customer service, to play a role in Portland’s recovery – and to reflect progress in protecting the workforce and community against COVID-19.

With vaccines available to children ages 5 to 11 and boosters widely available to adults, Portland is achieving important public health milestones. About 94 percent of employees covered by the City’s vaccination policy are fully vaccinated against COVID-19; the remaining 6 percent have received exceptions and comply with extra safety measures.

The City will monitor information about the new Omicron variant and adjust workplace reentry plans as needed, Rinehart said. Additionally, the City will evaluate the new hybrid workplace model in spring 2022 and consider any changes that might be beneficial.

“One important lesson we’ve learned during the past two years is the importance of adaptability – something we are committed to as we evaluate this new variant and all future developments,” Rinehart said.