Introducing Wake 2.0, the future that could save us a lot of money

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Amidst all the bad news from the 2020 pandemic comes hope for this new year.

We're not talking about the vaccines; we're talking about long-term tax savings.

One of the top administrators in Wake County government says one of the few upsides to the pandemic is that it has revealed potential measures for cutting costs.

Like many private employers, Wake County managers found that the forced work-from-home experiment has produced good results. So good, in fact, those managers have realized it can potentially save taxpayer dollars.

"We have to envision a different workplace and reimagine our world, post-COVID and not assume we're going to go back to our pre-COVID status," Wake County Chief Operation Officer Johnna Sharpe told ABC11

Like many employers, Wake County had never considered a widespread work-from-home program.

But when the county was forced by the coronavirus to a remote work environment, administrators quickly figured out how to make it work.

Satisfied with the results, they polled staffers working from home to see if they might like to continue the arrangement after the pandemic ends.

"The answer is a resounding yes--whether it's permanent or full-time remote working, or hybrid working," Sharpe said.

Obviously, some employees, like those at courthouses, have to continue with in-person work, but many of Wake's 4,300 workers have been working remotely.

That means a lot of the county's 5 million square feet of leased and owned office space is empty.

If a large portion of that space wasn't needed in the future, there would be an instant savings.

It wouldn't just be on rent and mortgages Sharpe said, "It takes a lot of dollars to operate our buildings, tens of millions of dollars in utilities each year. So, as we can make our footprint smaller, we can save dollars."

Sharpe also said the county is considering whether some in-person services could be provided remotely using video calls.

That would spare consumers of those services the hassles of having to come downtown, find parking, and then navigate the numerous county offices spread out in different buildings.

"Our citizens are having to adapt to that new way of life as well," Sharpe said. "And ultimately, if we're highly, highly productive, that's going to mean we need less taxpayer dollars to do our jobs."

Another benefit of moving toward permanent work from home positions is that if employees are happier with a flexible work arrangement, it might also have an impact on the county's $50,000,000 annual health budget.

"If this is reducing their stress, and helping their mental health, that's where we're also going to see some significant savings," she said.

Sharpe said the administrators are already outlining a possible plan for changes in the new year.

They call it Wake 2.0.
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