When Telework Stopped Being a Remote Possibility

Man Working Using Laptop on Coffee TableAt the beginning of 2020, the idea that the vast majority of the federal workforce would be working from home seemed like a remote (pun intended) reality. However, due to shelter-in-place orders across the U.S. this spring, much of the public sector work was being done from kitchen tables, guest bedrooms, and home offices. This fast pivot to remote work left agencies scrambling to get devices to employees now separated from their desks, develop reliable and secure connections to enterprise systems and applications, and re-engineer decades-old processes to accommodate fully virtual teams. Some examples include:

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a workaround to give employees access to systems when they could not use their PIV card. An alternative credential process was created in under a month, enabling DHS to issue credentials that included logical access tokens to give employees and contractors access to DHS networks only. Unlike a PIV card, this credentialing system doesn't have the employee or contractor's photo ID or allow physical access to a DHS building.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued Temporary Procedures for Personnel Vetting and Appointment of New Employees During Maximum Telework Period Due to Coronavirus COVID-19. These procedures included deferring the fingerprint requirement for background checks and opened the door to PIV card alternatives like the one created by DHS.
  • The DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released interim telework guidance as part of its Trusted Internet Connection 3.0 policy work. The guidance focused on enabling remote federal employees to connect to private agency networks and cloud environments in a secure manner by providing a way to map cybersecurity capabilities inherent in the services being made available to employees.
  • The City of Los Angeles quickly launched Connect2LACity.org, a work-from-home resources platform showing city workers how to access their Google e-mail and calendars, connect to their work computer remotely, and where to turn for help.
  • Hiring continued to happen across government for regular position openings as well as those related directly to the COVID-19 response. To onboard new employees, the OPM issued guidance for transitioning the once in-person processes of swearing in and "wet" signatures on documents to virtual ones.

With technology and guidelines in place that lift barriers to widespread remote work, it will be interesting to see how government teleworking policies are affected as the need for strict social distancing is lifted and agencies begin to welcome employees back to offices. Some speculate that acceptance of telework may help in recruiting the IT talent the government desperately needs. And the General Services Administration (GSA) has cited there could be huge cost savings if less office space is needed as more people work from home or teams alternate days in the office.

While we continue to navigate the current telework needs and plan for the future of continued remote work, there are a number of events that can help guide decisions.

  • Enable Quick and Secure Remote Work (On-Demand; online) - Google Cloud's webinar series includes several sessions that relate to remote work. This session in particular looks at delivering secure, responsive access to applications, desktops, and data. Past sessions on improving workplace collaboration and on Google solutions for working remotely may also be helpful.
  • Splunk Forum: Business Continuity with Remote Work Insights (June 22, 2020; online) - this event will cover how to empower IT and security teams to manage applications, monitor business performance, and secure networks from remote locations. It will also cover how to address performance and uptime issues with real time visibility across all remote work environments.
  • Think Gov 2020 (July 1, 2020; online) - During this IBM digital event, top civilian, defense, and intelligence leaders will highlight ways they are enabling IT resiliency and continuity of operations, enhanced collaboration, and disaster response. They will also address the added need for cybersecurity as more of the federal workforce works remotely than ever before.
  • SNG Live: Telework (July 14, 2020; online) - This virtual session will retrace the steps agencies took during the shift to telework, how they set their workforce up for mission continuity, and what challenges they had to overcome.
  • ATD Government Workforce Summit (September 10, 2020; online) - Designed to share talent management, leadership, and workforce learning best practices, this event will emphasize practical application and implementation across government agencies. This training event showcases workshops and sessions that highlight collaboration and innovation in the learning environment through real-world projects agencies use to deliver on their mission goals.
  • VMworld 2020 (September 28-October 1, 2020; online) - VMware is a global leader in cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology, accelerating digital transformation for evolving IT environments. This digital event will highlight innovative new technology solutions aimed at making it easier to access data and systems anywhere.

Let us know where you are getting information on remote work best practices related to both IT and human capital challenges.

Be sure to check out GovEvents for our complete listing of upcoming government events.

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