County Manager Column from Sept. 1, 2020

I hope your week is off to a good start. I’d like to update you on a few questions I have been hearing lately from employees.

Getting back to our county workspaces

For the past few months, I have been sharing the expectation on providing guidance by Labor Day about physically moving back to our county workspaces based on the Public Health outlook. Labor Day is less than a week away now and the short answer is that you should expect to continue your current arrangement through the end of this year.

I know that many of us miss contact with our colleagues and those we serve are eager to return to in-person arrangements. Despite its shortcomings, there’s no question that remote work has been effective in keeping us safer during the pandemic - that’s why it remains part of the statewide Stay Safe recommendations. The risk remains too large for our workforce and for those we interact with to begin moving back into our buildings as we go increasingly indoors in the fall and winter. That said, many of our employees are needed in person at work as a requirement of the job. Even with our workspaces and practices redesigned, every employee’s risk of infection is lower when those who can work remotely do so.

Departments will continue evaluating Service Delivery relative to current Stay Safe guidance and using the existing redesign process to review and propose any changes that involve altering functions or moving employees.    

Individual circumstances differ by employee, of course. I encourage you to keep communication open with your supervisor about your particular work situation and any concerns. I also encourage you to stay up-to-date with information here on RamseyNet and/or ramseycounty.us/employees and to take advantage of employee resources such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Flu shots – as important as ever

Staying healthy this flu season has never been more important! Getting immunized against the flu is quick, easy and free under our insurance plan. I admit that there was a year where I missed getting my flu shot – but I won’t ever do that again after everything we have learned through this experience with COVID-19.

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu shots have been shown to reduce the risk of the flu, hospitalization and death. Not only is influenza deadly, but when someone is sick with the flu they are more susceptible to other illnesses (including coronavirus) and may also spread it to others. In addition, with our healthcare system strained by the pandemic each avoidable clinic visit or hospitalization for flu frees up resources and reduces risk of cross-infection. I can’t urge you strongly enough to get your flu shot and to get it early.

We all have many options that are covered by our insurance plan – whether at your health care provider, a neighborhood pharmacy or grocery store. We have also established options for employees at four work sites across the county beginning on September 14. For those without insurance, the Quadrivalent vaccine is $35. Remember that due to COVID-19, getting your shot this year will be a little different with required reservations, distancing, masks and other measures. The schedule and registration links are available at ramseynet.us - the employee intranet site. 

Volunteering at county events

Whether serving at a county COVID-19 testing site or helping our Elections staff complete processing of the recent Primary Election, I am so grateful to have employees from across the office ask me “How can I help?” I hear this a lot and it’s uplifting and a real testament to our commitment to our community. There are some guidelines from Human Resources that we do need to follow when volunteering for our employer, however. Here’s the summary:

County employees may serve as volunteers at these events. Volunteer time will generally be unpaid. Employees who are subject to federal overtime provisions (“non-exempt” staff) must be paid if the volunteer service is part of those employees’ regular work. In those cases, the volunteer time will be paid in accordance with the respective collective bargaining agreement. Questions about whether an employee is non-exempt or about collective bargaining agreement requirements should be directed to Labor Relations, your department’s Human Resources Generalist or the Personnel Transaction Assistant for your department. 

I hope that these “quick hits” have been useful in helping to answer these questions and – as always – I appreciate your continued hard work and letting us know what’s on your mind.

Thanks for all you do!