Over half of federal government employees are currently working from home, according to a recent survey by the American Federation of Government Employees. This shift to remote work was sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, but it may become part of the “new normal.” To learn more about what the future of work may look like for federal government employees, we spoke with Bill Grabner, VP Federal/Government Sales with Ribbon.
“For a lot of agencies, it was a cultural shift, but technology-wise, it was already in place,” he said. Although some agencies did have teleworking solutions, they were sparsely used and couldn’t provide the capacity needed to enable agency-wide remote working. Grabner shared that the Department of Defense (DoD) and intelligence agencies, along with many others, faced challenges when moving to a remote environment so quickly. “Building infrastructure on the fly prompted the move to the cloud,” Grabner said.
“This has definitely been a wake up call for many government leaders who want to be prepared for future events,” said Tim Stone, Verizon UC Lead for the Department of Defense. “It will accelerate cloud capabilities and change the way technology is funded overall. And there will also definitely be greater flexibility for teleworking, especially for those who work in sensitive but unclassified (SBU) environments.”
This cloud transition provided the connection and collaboration needed to continue agency work. Agencies looked to cloud-based applications like Microsoft Teams, ZOOM, and other collaboration tools to engage partners and customers in a remote setting, and for the DoD, it was one of the first times collaboration tools like this had been used, he explained, and it changed the way the mission was approached. “It has forced change in the way agencies will communicate with each other. Maybe this means less travel or less face to face meetings – leading to better resource management and financial savings,” he shared.
As the DoD and other agencies leveraged this collaboration technology, security has remained top of mind. “This quick mobilization of the workforce was the tipping point to cloud environments that maintain a certain level of security. In the past, agencies may have been hesitant to use these applications, but due to the pandemic, they were forced to make the shift and looked to build out infrastructure to support government needs in a secure environment,” he said.
To ensure these collaboration solutions were scalable and secure, agencies turned to industry partners that were cognizant of their security requirements and compliance regulations. As agencies settle into the new normal, it’s important to evaluate remote work offerings. “Agencies need to understand what technologies create efficient, secure, and reliable solutions for their end users,” Grabner said. “While security and scalability should be the primary considerations, finding a technology that your users will embrace and has a proven performance record is key for true adoption. During this pandemic we have seen users embrace the technology and become more efficient in remote working. When the environment returns to normal operations, agency end users will expect to have the ability to use the technologies they embraced during this time of forced work at home,” he concluded.
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