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Kandiyohi County employees heading back to the office by June 1 with gradual transition now underway

With changes to the state emergency executive order being made, Kandiyohi County will begin transitioning back to fully in-person working. The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioner withdrew a motion allowing employees to work from home. Employees will be required to be back fully in the office by June 1.

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Raelin Setrum, probation officer, participates in a virtual training in her office Thursday April 15, 2021, in the Community Corrections offices located in the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar. Kandiyohi County employees are transitioning back to fully in-person work by June 1. A hybrid approach will be used between now and then to gradually bring employees back. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Employees of Kandiyohi County , some of whom have been able to work from home over the past year due to the governor's executive order and a temporary approval from the Kandiyohi County Board , will soon be expected to return to the office.

In mid-March, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz amended his executive order that ordered employers to allow employees to work from home whenever possible due to the coronavirus . The amended order, which took effect April 15, highly recommends employers allow workers to work from home, but no longer mandates it.

Due to these changes, at the April 7 meeting of the County Board, the commissioners rescinded the temporary approval that allowed some employees to work from home, starting a two-month transition period at Kandiyohi County. Employees will be required to be back fully in the office by June 1.

"We will be transitioning to a hybrid approach from April 15 to May 28, to slowly bring all of our employees back in the office, if they aren't already in the office," said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.

The vast majority of the county's employees, due to the nature of their jobs, have either been working from the office since the start of the pandemic or returned some time ago.

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"Most of our employees are already back in the office. Over 75 percent are back in the office full time," Kleindl said.

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John Petron, probation officer, works in his office Thursday April 15, 2021, in the Community Corrections offices located in the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar. Kandiyohi County employees are transitioning back to fully in-person work by June 1. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Kleindl said he wanted to give those employees still working from home ample time to get affairs in orders, such as day care for children, along with the chance to get vaccinated, before mandating a return to the office. Supervisors can ask employees to return to the office prior to June 1.

"It gives employees plenty of time" to get ready to return, Kleindl said.

If an employee chooses not to return to the office, that could lead to dismissal, Kleindl said.

"This is a condition of employment, to be in the office," Kleindl said.

Prior to the pandemic, Kandiyohi County did not have a work-from-home policy and technically still does not. Kleindl said he and staff are in the process of creating such a policy, with the hope to allow some employees the chance to work from home, but only if their job can be done correctly and efficiently outside of the office setting.

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"It has to work for Kandiyohi County. We will vet this thing to death," Kleindl said. "We take this very seriously. We want to make it right."

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April Jones, probation officer, participates in a virtual training in her office Thursday April 15, 2021, in the Community Corrections offices located in the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar. Kandiyohi County employees are transitioning back to fully in-person work by June 1. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

The commissioners unanimously passed the motion to rescind the temporary work-from-home approval.

"It is real exciting to have this brought to us, that we are at this stage," said Commissioner Corky Berg. "We're going back to somewhat normal."

The board also supports creating a work-from-home policy, feeling it could be beneficial.

"I know it doesn't work for everybody," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. "For those it does work, it could be more productive."

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Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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