As federal agencies implemented remote work policies in March 2020, many officials, leaders, and employees approached the shift to a distributed workforce with concern. In a survey of decision-makers in IT and HR, only 14 percent of respondents in the central government sector saw remote work as a necessity prior to the pandemic. Despite haphazard beginnings as a temporary solution, the federal government’s shift to remote work has since shown long-term potential to drive collaboration and improve the agility, diversity, and responsiveness of the federal workforce. Today, 36 percent of those respondents believe that remote work will be a necessity when traditional working environments resume. It’s time for federal agencies to take steps towards establishing remote work as a permanent fixture.
To develop successful hybrid and remote work programs, federal agencies will have to invest heavily in technology upgrades. The survey found that 42 percent of respondents in the central government sector cited IT challenges as obstacles to managing a remote workforce. Rick Ailstock, Lead Technical Sales SE for Partner Relationships at FCN, Inc., supported these findings with insights on why hybrid and remote work is dependent on having access to secure cloud-based data system.
“If agencies store their information on older backup or non-cloud systems, then it becomes nearly impossible for them to get at that data when they need it most. This is especially true if there’s no way of keeping multiple externally connected devices safe while also making sure whatever is being accessed stays protected,” said Ailstock.
Moving data systems to the cloud may seem like a daunting undertaking for organizations that are historically viewed as traditional and risk-averse, but Ailstock advised that federal agencies follow the lead of commercial companies who are evolving faster in hybrid and remote work environments. “It’s the commercial side that will make some major advances to pave the way for the federal level,” Ailstock said. “They are developing production processes and operational strategies for this new era of technology advancements to create a more efficient way of doing things on both sides. Federal agencies can use what they’ve learned while still maintaining their critical missions with testing done at home base.”
Since government workers now see hybrid and remote work as a crucial part of the employee experience, federal agencies must develop programs that accommodate a distributed workforce in order to recruit and retain workers. A strong hybrid and remote work program is not only more desirable to top talent, but builds a culture where the workforce is adept at responding to mission critical activities from anywhere at any time. “As we continue to move forward as a country, our government employees need access and the capability of working from wherever they are,” said Ailstock.
This past summer, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the General Services Administration (GSA) issued guidance saying that federal agencies will be allowed to offer employees flexible schedules and remote work at their discretion. As federal agencies make plans for what their post-pandemic workplace will look like, it is certain that remote work programs are here to stay. With regards to federal agencies’ moves to permanently adopting remote work programs, Ailstock said these investments “will ensure that mission critical activities do not become stagnant, which would be detrimental for both them and us.”
To learn more about the technologies supporting this massive shift to remote work in the federal workplace, download the report “The New Remote Work Era: Trends in the Distributed Workforce” from Dell Technologies and FCN Inc.