Lombardo cracking down on remote work in state jobs nearly 1 year after his initial order
A new policy issued this week by Gov. Joe Lombardo’s administration functionally ended more-lenient remote work guidelines for state employees, reverting back to pre-pandemic norms 11 months after Lombardo initially moved to send workers back to the office.
In January, Lombardo signed an executive order instructing the Department of Administration to implement “pre-pandemic, normal and customary office conditions” for executive branch employees by July 1, 2023. At the time, Lombardo cited state agency vacancy rates hitting 24 percent and lamented a lack of face-to-face interaction between the public and government workers.
“In my opinion, government service is a service,” Lombardo told The Nevada Independent in January. “It’s a service to the constituents, and that’s where we’ve lost our way.”
However, that six-month implementation window was extended this summer, after state lawmakers approved the purchase of more than a dozen new office buildings meant to house executive branch agencies in Las Vegas. In a memo issued in late June, Department of Administration chief Jack Robb told state employees that retrofitting the new space would extend the remote work timeline by another six to 12 months.
The five-page policy emailed to executive branch employees Tuesday calls remote work agreements a “limited discretionary privilege” to be approved case-by-case with individual employees and revoked at any time.
Effective immediately, the document adds, that “it is the intent of the governor that remote work is the exception, not the rule,” and that such agreements are “not appropriate to be ubiquitous” across “broad categorizations” of employees, such as entire executive departments or job titles.
That language echoes previous comments from Lombardo and Robb. In the June memo, Robb called it a “privilege to work remotely.” Speaking to Nevada Independent editor Jon Ralston in January, the governor said “it’s called a job for a reason.”
“The failure for anyone to answer a phone … you’re left in the queue for two weeks or you’re on for four hours and not getting an answer, that’s directly related to people not putting eyes on an individual and feeling their pain,” Lombardo said at the time. “It’s easy to ignore someone from your living room.”
Asked for comment, Lombardo spokesperson Elizabeth Ray said the new policy came after the governor’s office “noted inconsistencies in the implementation of the statewide remote work policy.”
“The policy was circulated to provide clarity on this issue and to reiterate expectations in the new year,” Ray said.
Nationwide, employers and employees have grappled with the yearslong return to the office for white-collar workers, especially after COVID-related lockdown measures reshaped the nature of remote work.
Workers nationally reported roughly 60 percent of paid days were worked from home in the middle of 2020, according to a study from WFH Research. That number has steadily dropped in the months and years since, but still hovered around 28 percent as of October 2023.
However, those researchers found only about 12 percent of workers were fully remote as of October, compared to 58 percent fully in person and 30 percent in hybrid arrangements. Though Nevada has more than 17,000 state workers, Lombardo’s office did not clarify how many were under a remote work agreement prior to Tuesday’s new policy.