Catherine Geanuracos
April 7, 2020

5 Tools Local Governments can use to help staff work from home during the Coronavirus crisis

Local government isn’t usually associated with remote work or distributed teams. The news is full of tech companies requiring their staff to work from home because of the Coronavirus, but how can your local government team work remotely? Cities, villages, counties, boroughs and towns are some of the most “up close and personal” sectors of today’s society. Firefighting and garbage collection must be done in person, and we associate schools and libraries with in-person experiences, too. The one-on-one service you provide at City Hall is important, but unfortunately COVID-19 containment measures may require keeping your staff and community apart for a while. When schools are closed, your staff need to be at home with their kids. How can local governments quickly transition some of their employees to remote work?  We thought we’d share some of our experiences to help you think through how remote work may be possible for your local government teams.

CityGrows is a remote team

Our team here at CityGrows  has been “remote-first” since 2016, which means we don’t work out of the same office - we don’t even all live in the same time zone. It works well for us, so we thought we’d share some of the ways we keep our team connected and efficient. We hope that they’ll be useful for our local government partners as you think about how to manage the current situation.

How to successfully work remotely

Here are 5 of the strategies and associated tools we use to get things done when we’re not physically together. While we’ll share some of the specific products that our team uses below, and please note there are lots of different products and options in each category below.*

  1. Talk frequently with video chat/ video conferencing software: Our team has a daily team meeting to make sure we’re on track and to get internal questions answered and any requests for support addressed. We also do 99% of our product demonstrations and consultations with our partner governments through video chat. We generally prefer using video conferencing tools that don’t require any download of software onto a user’s computer.  We use http://whereby.com/ and https://www.uberconference.com/. Both have free versions, and their paid plans are extremely low cost. Test out using video chat software for internal meetings, and consider using it for public / community meetings as well.
  1. Send less email with a communication tool like Slack: Our team has transitioned to using Slack for internal communication, and email for our conversations with people outside our team. Slack lets us send messages to the whole team, to specific work groups, or to one individual. It sends notifications about new messages, and lets the whole team know what’s going on with projects and issues (each has its own “channel” in slack. We find it to be helpful to use email less for internal communication.
  1. Work on documents together online: Our team uses Google docs, but any shared platform that allows team review/ editing is helpful. We find group editing works best if it’s clear when and from whom you’d like edits/ feedback.
  1. Use project management tools to track progress on large, complex projects: Our team likes Trello, but you can use anything from a simple shared spreadsheet to Microsoft Project, depending on what your team is working on.
  1. Use workflow automation tools like CityGrows to digitize repeated public and internal processes. Our partner governments use CityGrows to create digital access to everything from business licenses to pet licensing to building permits, and as a company, we even use our own product to make sure that processes like employee onboarding move quickly and are completed properly. We’re helping governments transition into remote-first work in real time.

We're offering daily webinars for local government employees on transitioning to working remotely/ from home. Register here!

Or read more about how and why to transition local government workflows online for remote work here.

* Please note that we are not recommending these tools for criminal justice or medical use. Those uses require digital tools with higher security controls than those we’ve listed here and special CJIS and/or HIPAA-certification for software tools.



Catherine Geanuracos

CEO and Co-Founder of CityGrows. Dedicated to transforming government technology and helping local governments provide better service and do more with less. Former VP of City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission, co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. Catherine is the Chair of the Board for CicLAvia, north America's largest open streets bicycle events. She's based in Silver Lake in Los Angeles.

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