Energy, environment agency set to return to on-site work – Arkansas Online - Freelance Rack

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Energy, environment agency set to return to on-site work – Arkansas Online

Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment employees who oversee the state’s environmental regulatory framework are preparing to return to on-site work in phases starting Monday after many began working remotely during the covid-19 outbreak this spring.

In an email to employees earlier this month, Department Secretary Becky Keogh outlined the plan for the department’s return to on-site work and informed them that a phased return to the office was scheduled for June 29.

Under the plan described by Keogh, employees who work at the department’s large North Little Rock headquarters located at 5301 Northshore Drive will return in two-day shifts.

Employees at the headquarters will be assigned to a group. Group A will work on-site on Mondays and Tuesdays, and group B on Wednesdays and Thursdays. All employees will continue to work remotely on Fridays. The two groups will swap their work schedule every week, Keogh said.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Keogh explained that at the department’s smaller work locations, most employees will be expected to return to work as usual at the discretion of department leadership, with safety precautions in place.

“Please keep in mind, however, social distancing practices and the E&E Workplace Guidance must be followed regardless of the plan proposed by the Director. Again, this is of paramount importance to ensure our staff is protected from potential COVID-19 transmission,” Keogh wrote in her June 18 email.

Many of the department’s approximately 400 employees began working remotely after a March 23 order from Keogh. However, some essential workers have continued to work on-site, according to department spokesman Jacob Harper.

The return to on-site work comes as the number of new covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas has pushed upward relentlessly in the past few weeks, like other states in the South and West such as Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Thousands of employees who work for other state agencies in Arkansas began returning to workplaces earlier this month under guidance from the Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services.

In Keogh’s recent letter, she said employees who feel they are high-risk because of a condition impacted by covid-19 — or if they live with a high-risk individual — may request to work from home exclusively, with her approval.

According to Harper, department managers were working on site on Wednesday for safety plan training sessions.

He could not immediately say how many employees will return to work at the headquarters Monday out of the department’s workforce.



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