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Green Where We Work

Green Where We Work

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Green Where We Work

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What is Green Where We Work?

Background: In June 2020, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) announced that DNRP employees in designated telecommuting positions would predominantly telecommute, with occasional on-site work and meetings, as influenced by their specific role and business needs. DNRP branded this departmental move to remote work as GreenWhereWeWork. Initiated during the County Executive’s county-wide work from home mandate (March 2020-July 2021), county employees whose positions allowed them to work from home were required to work remotely while the remaining half continued to report on-site to their normal work location.

By the end of 2020, approximately half the department that worked in downtown Seattle at the King Street Center (KSC) and Canal Place moved out of those locations. The department is planning to open downtown space — one floor at KSC — for occasional collaborative meeting and drop-in space beginning in late 2022. With employee health and safety at the forefront of this decision, the department saw an opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint as well as save public money and help sustain county services and employment during a regional economic downturn. In response to the pandemic, many county departments began implementing some variation of part-time remote work in 2021. County-wide as well as departmental resources and training will continue to support staff in all aspects of remote work.

Vision: DNRP innovates new ways to get work done — with emerging technology, tools, and a lighter footprint. We work with our stakeholders, customers, community members, other governments, and co-workers when, where, and how it makes sense — where the work is happening, out in the community, at a park, a facility, along a river, in a conference room or virtually from home. We collaborate and solve problems respectfully and creatively, strengthening relationships with our customers and maintaining fulfilling working relationships.

Employees transitioning to telework

Division Total staff Percent of Teleworking Staff
Director's Office 33 100%
Water and Land Resources Division 397 85%
Wastewater Treatment Division 701 45%
Solid Waste Division 413 30%
Parks 440 20%
DNRP Total 1,984 45%
DNRP employees transitioning to telework

Working from home presents both opportunities and challenges to ensure we are collectively doing what we can to reduce our environmental impacts. The vacated office space and reduced commuting are reducing energy and fuel use. If DNRP embraces positive environmental practices while working from home, we have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2e) per year. It is important that employees use energy wisely in our homes and use transit and other non-driving travel modes for future work-related and personal transportation needs.

Employees experience many benefits while working-from-home. No more regular commutes increase flexibility. As technology becomes more effective our employees are better connected not just to their work, but each other. DNRP employees are innovating ways to stay connected, trying out new ideas for team building, building technology skills, and learning from one another.  Refining what’s working and what could be better for our work-from-home employees is foundational for achieving our vision of GWWW.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed where we work and how we work almost overnight. DNRP had to rapidly adjust to having employees working from home and on-site, while maintaining organizational operations and safety during a global pandemic. Increasing costs for office space have placed a significant burden on DNRP’s resources. The 2021-2022 biennial budget for office space in King Street Center was approximately $12 million with historical trends showing increases each biennium around 4%. The department’s occupied office space in King Street Center was reduced by 60%, that resulted in an initial decrease of $3.5 million. There are a number of one-time and ongoing costs related to the department’s shift to a distributed workforce and space consolidation still outstanding that may impact overall costs. However, at this time the department expects to realize additional savings related to the reduction of occupied office space.

Restrictions in gathering brought on by COVID-19 have accelerated our understanding and more equitable use of technologies for tele-town halls, on-line stakeholder engagement and other ways of connecting with the public in virtual settings. Now with GWWW, our employees will not be concentrated in downtown Seattle, spurring the need for a new level of commitment to work directly with our customers and stakeholders out in the field. Moving forward, we will work to maintain our best practices for virtual public engagement, while developing new work norms that facilitate personal connection with our customers, businesses, and the public in the communities where they live and work.