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COVID-19 and Transitioning to a Virtual Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected public health conditions and economies worldwide. As the pandemic unfolded, Wisconsin child support agencies needed to find ways to continue serving customers. This report explores how Wisconsin child support agencies approached staff work arrangements and service provision during the pandemic; challenges and opportunities encountered; and post-COVID changes agencies expect to persist. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with child support directors and staff in five Wisconsin counties.

We find that, despite limited information and little prior experience working virtually, county agencies rapidly adapted staff work arrangements and service delivery methods to facilitate service continuity. Strategies used by agencies varied across counties, given local directives, resources, and constraints, and as the pandemic evolved. Pandemic-related changes made by courts and local law enforcement also affected agency processes and operations. Findings suggest that innovative combinations of traditional and newer methods, can help agencies maximize customer reach. Further, the infrastructure and experiences countiesgained by working in new ways offers increased flexibility and improved capacity for service continuity in the future. Policymakers could support these efforts by providing guidance related to confidentiality and data security when working off-site; supporting and facilitating crisis contingency planning; coordinating information exchange across counties; helping counties access or procure technology and resources; and advocating for infrastructure, particularly broadband internet in rural areas.


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research


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