The state’s new effort to define remote work rules for state employees is a welcome step in the right direction.

When the pandemic started, many state employees started working from home. On May 17, Gov. Mike Parson ordered state employees to return to work in person.

We argued in this forum at the time that doing so wasn’t offering much flexibility at a time when flexibility might be in the best interest of both the state government and its workforce.

The state’s push to have standardized guidelines for remote work seems to signal that, at least in some situations, it’s beneficial for employees to work from home.

Some agencies have already submitted their “distributive work” plans, as they are called, to the governor’s office for review.

As we recently reported, distributive work refers to employees working outside a department’s usual office setting, including temporary or permanent work from home.

The Office of Administration said about one in five state employees has been infected with COVID-19, so it makes sense from a health standpoint to consider which employees would be suited to work at home.

These days, it’s technologically possible for many people to work from home.

For employers such as the state, it’s just a matter of identifying these employees/positions, determining guidelines and ensuring productivity and performance objectives remain high.

A move to more at-home workers could potentially save the state millions of dollars in office space, while possibly giving employees more flexibility in hours that would let them handle child care and other issues.

That, in turn, could make the state a more appealing place to work, drawing more applicants for positions.

Major companies such as Facebook and Twitter have signaled they are moving to more of a remote workforce.

Not all state positions, of course, are suitable for remote work. But the state is wise to implement a plan to determine guidelines for the positions/employees who are suitable for working from home.

This was first published by the Jefferson City News Tribune and distributed by The Associated Press.

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