DHS To Close Some Locations, Let Employees Continue Work From Home

Thursday, May 28th 2020, 8:24 pm
By: Mallory Thomas

Oklahoma Department of Human Services said because they employees' productivity went up while working at home during the pandemic, they're going to allow more people to work from home and close about half of their locations across the state.

The state said closing the offices will save $6 million.

One OKDHS employee who wished to remain anonymous said she's worried about what the new plan will mean for people living in rural areas.

“All staff and employees aside, it’s not really about us. It’s about these families and these families are going to suffer and that’s the bottom line,” said the anonymous employee.

OKDHS said a recent survey showed during the pandemic as many as 87 percent of their employees were just as productive working from home. OKDHS Director Justin Brown said as part of the new plan the state will work with more community partners.

“It could be tribal partners. Other foundations and non-profits that would totally benefit from the Department of Human Services sort of co-locating on a part-time basis. It also allows us to be in the community and meet our customers where they are," said Brown.

The anonymous employee said she understands allowing more people to work from home and that closing some locations will save money, but said many of the families she sees daily, will suffer.

“They can’t get to a major city hub. They don’t have the gas. A lot of my families are illiterate. Yes, DHS has online services, but a lot of our families don’t have access or don’t understand it," said the anonymous employee.

Brown said no one will be furloughed or laid off as part of the new plan.

OKDHS Director Justin Brown gave the following statement:

“Our agency has learned so much in light of COVID,” said Brown. “We know that we can continue to serve our customers in a meaningful way while teleworking. Many of our staff are already working from the field. By prioritizing our services and customers over physical structures as we absorb budget cuts, and by strengthening community partnerships to serve in new ways, we are creating stability for our agency and those we serve well into the future. Our priority as an agency is always to serve Oklahomans, especially those who need us most.”