From the County Manager Column from Nov. 2, 2021

Employee flexible workplace, vaccination/testing policies go into effect

Yesterday, our new Flexible Workplace Policy and vaccination and testing requirement policy went into effect. As we’ve focused on the details of the policies and issues of implementation, what can be lost is the reason and purpose of these policies. It’s important to remember that COVID-19 remains at a state of high community transmission – 86 of 87 Minnesota counties continue to have this designation. Close to home, in past weeks we have seen the tragic loss of two residents from the virus at our own Care Center and the related, compounding effects as the team there has worked to manage and contain exposure while continuing to operate and serve residents in need of care.

Despite recent good news around vaccination availability for youth and approval of boosters, this virus remains a deadly risk – especially for those who are most vulnerable. In addition to the immediate health threat, those across our community and organization have endured the mental and emotional toll, economic disruption and fear that the pandemic has wrought these past 20 months.

This has been a very tough run and each one of us and our families and communities have experienced it differently. I continue to admire and draw strength from you – despite a continual stream of new challenges, employees across this organization remain dedicated and bring your best every day. Thank you for continuing to share ideas, suggestions, concerns, critiques and kind words – each one of these helps us do our best as our organization works through these momentous issues through our polices and operations.

Flexible workplace policy

The Flexible Workplace Policy is now posted in the Administrative Policy Manual and at ramseycounty.us/Employees. I encourage you to find some time to review this new policy in the days ahead. We will add to our FAQ throughout implementation of the policy as questions are raised and we use lessons learned to inform and improve ongoing rollout. Some areas you can expect further clarity on are: technology and equipment; furniture and ergonomics; training; and parking/transportation and cell phones.

Read the Flexible Workplace Policy

Although the policy itself went into effect on Nov. 1, the three-phase, six-month operational rollout will begin only after Ramsey County is identified by the Centers for Disease Control as “moderate” or “low” for community transmission of COVID-19. As shown our daily COVID-19 case dashboard, we currently remain in “high” transmission status.

As a reminder, when the community transmission level for Ramsey County drops from “high” or “substantial” to “moderate or “low”, Phase 1 employees will receive two weeks advance notice via Workspace Alerts and other means to prepare for the return to workspaces per their department plan.

We are planning for each phase to take two months (60 days) to fully implement, and that schedule will begin only after Phase 1 employees return to their workspaces. Due to this, the organization will continue in a “remote first” work environment and those in the Phase 1 group currently working primarily off-site will continue to do so. The Phase 1 group includes:

  • All full-time employees already working on-site.
  • Community-embedded or mobile employees.
  • Employees working at Saint Paul City Hall – Ramsey County Courthouse, which includes the County Manager’s Office, the County Board Office and other leaders and staff that represent each Service Team.
  • The other departments within the Strategic Team (Human Resources and Finance).

Phase 2 departments will include:

  • Information & Public Records Administration and IPR Finance.
  • Information Services.
  • Emergency Communications.
  • Emergency Management & Homeland Security.
  • Public Works.
  • Library.
  • Parks & Recreation.
  • Property Management.

Phase 3 will consist of departments working primarily out of the East Building and the other departments in the Health & Wellness Service Team.

Employee COVID-19 vaccine/testing requirements

Since posting the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination or Testing Requirements Policy on Oct. 19, we have had a steady number of employees upload vaccination results through the self-service function in Summit to provide certification.

As of the end of the day yesterday, 62% of all employees – permanent, temporary, intermittent and seasonal - have certified vaccination status by the Nov. 1 deadline. Of these, 93% have certified that they have been fully vaccinated. We have seen a late surge in certifications so far this week, too, and expect that to continue throughout this week. We’ll continue to regularly report on our organization’s progress in certifying vaccination status on RamseyNet.

Reminder: Certification was required by Nov. 1, 2021. If you have not yet uploaded your results, please make time to do so promptly. It really is quick and easy and employees who provide certification of vaccination status and upload proof of vaccination will receive a $100 incentive in a forthcoming paycheck.

The process for medical and religious exemptions is detailed in the policy and Human Resources will work with employees and their departments on exemption requests. Employees who do not comply with the policy may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

The first full work week since the effective date of this policy starts Nov. 6. The work weeks run Saturday to Friday and employees who are not fully vaccinated (including those individuals who have not certified their vaccination status) are expected to upload test results on a weekly basis.

Human Resources also led a number of virtual information sessions in late November. These were also well attended by about 400 employees, supervisors and managers in all. Virtually every single employee has begun the training in our Learning & Development Center and nearly 1,700 have completed it. If you haven’t completed the training, please prioritize finding the time for it this week.

Beyond the training, if you need assistance providing certification, many resources - including videos and job aids - are available on the Vaccine and Testing Requirements page on ramseycounty.us. Human Resources staff are also available to provide direct assistance – just call 651-266-2700 or email [email protected].

I’d like to again acknowledge the hard work of the team that has put a lot of research, planning, thought and effort into bringing forth these well-rounded policies that strive to keep us all healthy and safe while providing for individual employee options. Both policies will continue to be regularly reviewed and refined as needed as well. Thanks to every employee who has provided feedback throughout this process - I again encourage you continue to provide your thoughts which will continue to be critical as we move through implementation together.