Planning for the future of work for employees of King County

King County is building on what it has learned about working remotely and serving customers during a pandemic to reimagine its workspaces, physical and carbon footprint, and service delivery models in a post-pandemic environment.

Chinook Building

“COVID-19 forced many changes on the way we work but it has also given us the opportunity to rethink the way we work,” Chief People Officer Whitney Abrams said. “We want to take this opportunity to look at how we deliver services, the way we work, and what we can do differently to better serve our region, our employees, and the environment.”

King County’s operations have shifted dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic:

  • Approximately one-third of King County’s 15,000 employees have been working remotely since March 2020 and will continue to telework through July 5, 2021
  • Most public facing services have shifted online, and many buildings are closed to the public and most employees
  • Wearing masks and adhering to physical distancing guidelines is mandatory in County workspaces
  • The Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) announced in June 2020 that about 850 employees working at King Street Center (KSC) would transition to permanent remote work
  • The Administration Building will close during 2021, with staff in that building relocating to Chinook, KSC, and other County-owned or -leased facilities.

The county has learned that a lot of work can be performed effectively and productively from home and many services can continue to be provided remotely. Now the county is planning for post-pandemic work at King County, drawing on the experience of the last year and input from employees.

Department leaders are developing “Future of Work” plans that consider impacts to eight key areas:

  • Equity
  • Employee health, safety, wellbeing, engagement, and labor relations
  • Customer service, business needs, and operational needs
  • Change management and communication plans
  • Budget planning and cost avoidance
  • Climate change, sustainability, and efficiency
  • Legal advice and regulatory compliance
  • Worksite changes.

Some of the issues being considered by departments are the use of shared spaces or “hot desks,” how remote work affects equity for employees and customers, potential impacts to carbon emissions, and the maintenance of employee health, safety, and wellbeing.

“We have had to adjust our operations and the way we work by necessity during the pandemic, and we have learned some things,” Abrams said. “What made sense for operations in the past may not necessarily make sense today or in the future. We are taking a close look at all aspects of our work to ensure they best reflect the needs and expectations of our region in 2021 and beyond.”

Each department has also identified a change management lead to ensure the needs of employees and customers are centered in the department considerations and that employees will be engaged and supported through any change.

Executive Branch leaders are reaching out to employees through a number of different methods – including listening sessions and team meetings – to ensure that the ideas, concerns, and suggestions of staff are addressed in this process.

Departments will finalize and submit their proposed plans to the Future of Work Planning Committee – which is chaired by Abrams and comprised of department directors and their designees – by the end of February. Final plans will need to be approved by King County Executive Dow Constantine and his Senior Leadership Team.