JUST IN: CareSource employees to continue working from home

CareSource, Wright-Patterson, others weigh options for remote work

In a message to CareSource employees Wednesday afternoon, CareSource said workers will be encouraged to continue working from home through October.

“While essential staff has been in our buildings throughout this time, the majority of employees continue to successfully work from home,” CareSource said in a statement shared with the Dayton Daily News. “Employee safety and flexibility remain a priority — especially with the uncertainty around school schedules.

“With that in mind, employees who need to enter one of our buildings have a safe process to do so,” the Medicaid management company said. “All other employees have been encouraged to continue working from home through October, at which point we will reevaluate business and employee needs as well as current public health circumstances across our markets.”

CareSource and its workforce aren’t alone. For thousands of Dayton-area employees, the future of work is already here.

Many workers who can work from home are doing so, and they’ve been doing so for nearly five months.

For the time being, at least some local employers seem content to keep it that way, monitoring developments as the COVID-19 pandemic works its way across the nation and globe.

“There’s no end date,” said Robert Purtiman, a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base spokesman. “Obviously, the whole telework thing will probably stay with us for now because the Air Force has done a lot of investing in infrastructure and the programs that allow folks to do the telework.”

“But there is no date that has been put out that says, hey, we’re going to stop it,” he added.

Randy Sparks, a business professor and associate dean at the University of Dayton, agrees that the nature of work is changing and has been changing for a while.

The pandemic has sped up a trend already in place, the adoption of remote work.

Pre-COVID, the growth of remote work was “a slow, creeping increase in the number of jobs where working from home was permissible or even encouraged,” he said.

COVID-19 pushed that transition forward by a decade or more, some analysts think.

“This is big seismic shift that the pandemic has sped along,” Sparks said.

‘Telework is going to be utilized'

About 20% of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s workforce of about 30,000 military and civilian employees -- about 6,000 people -- are physically working on base at the moment, Purtiman said. The remainder continue to work from home, as the base remains in what installation leaders call “phase two” of Wright-Patterson’s gradual reopening.

“As we open the aperture, as the country goes into recovery from COVID, then we look at moving into (the next phase of the reopening),” Purtiman said.

That may involve relaxing or changing some restrictions, he said.

It will also involve more workers inside the fence at Wright-Patterson, one of the nation’s biggest Air Force bases and Ohio’s largest single-site employer.

The next phase “allows up to 50 percent (of the base’s workforce to work on base),” Purtiman said. “You’ll see more people on base who aren’t teleworking, more people are back in the workforce.”

But he added: “I think on some level, telework is going to be utilized in the future.”

From a financial perspective, the shift to telework is a good thing, Sparks said. White-collar offices are not cheap. They need to be built, purchased or leased, they need to be heated and cooled, and taxes must be paid. Those costs can worked out to about $12,000 per employee per year, on average, Sparks said.

That’s a significant expense, and the pandemic has changed the thinking on those costs. If that can be cut in half or by more, a lot of money can be saved, he said.

“Companies can start shedding locations,” Sparks said.

But there are other costs to be considered, he added. Human beings are social animals, and they have a need to work with one another.

“Organizations are simply collections of people who are united by some common purpose,” Sparks said. “In the case of business, it’s to sell a product and make money and earn a profit.”

That takes productive relationships, those relationships need to be cultivated in person, he said.

Still, Sparks thinks most will adapt.

“We can’t underestimate the ability of technology to start solving many of the problems that come with remote work,” he said.

Educating in new ways

Cilla Shindell, a University of Dayton spokeswoman, said university leaders are planning the fall semester. In general, UD is asking employees who can work from home and whose work can be performed remotely, to continue doing so.

At Wright State University, faculty were surveyed on how they wanted to teach assigned classes for the fall, said Seth Baugess, a Wright State spokesman.

Those who wanted to teach in-person or with in-person components are allowed to do so, and WSU is planning for that, Baugess said. Those who want to teach online will do that.

“The rough plan has been for staff to return to campus in the late summer, perhaps August, ahead of the fall semester,” he said in a July email. “The university is still working on that, though.

Like many organizations, Premier Health is evaluating its remote work program, spokesman Ben Sutherly said. Government will be watched for important cues.

“Our long-term plan will be carefully aligned to the governor’s guidance, spread of COVID-19, safety, and operational needs,” Sutherly said, adding: “We have not provided an extension date (for teleworking) into next year at this point.”

“We continue to monitor the situation regularly and will adjust as needed to ensure the safety of both our patients and staff,” he said.

Kettering Health Network expects remote work to be part of its future.

“We are committed to developing a program that practically integrates remote work options into the delivery of exceptional service and care for our communities,” the network said in a statement.

In Springfield, global insurer Assurant Inc. initiated work from home for those who have the ability to do so, the vast majority of the company’s Springfield employees, beginning in March, spokesman David Blumenthal said.

“That has been extended currently through September 30, and we continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to determine if we will make further extensions,” Blumentahal said.

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