The Office of Personnel Management recently conducted a Federal Employee Work-Life Survey to gauge employee satisfaction across the government. The findings were pretty clear – agencies that embraced flexible work schedules and offered telecommuting options had employees that reported higher job satisfaction ratings, performed at a higher level, and were more likely to stay in their current agency.
As agencies grapple with the growing skills gap and talent leaving for the private sector while also dealing with low employee morale in the aftermath of the longest government shutdown in history, managers need to get creative to keep their top talent and improve recruiting efforts.
While congress passed the Telework Enhancement Act in 2010, prompting agencies to develop a framework for telework policies, adoption is slow going. In some agencies, there is actually a decrease in telework participation. So while the private sector is seeing an increase in people who telework at least 1 day a week, government agencies are lagging behind.
This is unfortunate, because quite simply, today’s employees are looking for jobs that offer flexibility and a good work/life balance. If you don’t offer it, they will find somewhere that does.
Long Commutes and Personal Obligations Don’t Mix
I remember sitting on the Washington, DC beltway – just sitting – while the sun blazed down on me following a meeting with a federal agency downtown. Everything we accomplished in that meeting could have been handled through a video conference. Instead, I added my car to the thousands on the road that hot July day to attend the in-person meeting. I was increasing emissions, adding to congestion, spending money on parking, and perhaps worst of all, being completely unproductive in the 1 ½ hours I was stuck in traffic.
For people who commute every day while also juggling the rush to get home for childcare, pet care, elder care, or any other personal obligations, the hassle can start to wear on an employee’s mental well-being. A recent study by the University of Cambridge found that people with commutes over ½ hour were 33% more likely to suffer from depression. Commutes of over 10 miles each way are linked to high blood pressure.
Beyond an employee’s health, there is a real cost to organizations – in a report from Urban Mobility, commuting costs America $90 billion a year in lost productivity.
Collaboration Tools Keep Virtual Employees on Track
A key part of creating a telework plan is to validate your collaboration tools. Employees who are remote must still be connected to the office, just as though they were there. Modern collaboration tools allow remote employees to do just that.
As a federal agency, you also have the added complexity of needing collaboration solutions that adhere to the numerous and ever-evolving compliance demands, including modernization requirements. Legacy systems are not conducive to a modern, robust teleworking environment.
Modern collaboration applications such as Webex Teams and Webex Meetings offered by Cisco allow employees the ability to instant message and participate in group chat sessions regardless of physical location. Webex also offers huddle spaces where interactive meetings can take place using virtual white boards, document sharing, and other features that allow participants to collaborate in real time – from anywhere.
If mission security is a concern for your collaboration tools, Cisco offers a FedRAMP Impact Level 2 (IL2) Webex tool for Civilian agencies. They also have HCS-D solutions designed specifically for Department of Defense agencies that offer DoD Impact Level 5 (IL5) certification. Remote workers using these tools can achieve the highest level of security as they do in the office environment.
Keeping an Eye on End-Point Security
Remote employees may present security issues that need to be considered in your security protocols. The tools they use to get their job done should have strong, multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access into your systems, which is also recommended by NIST in their Digital Identity Guidelines published in 2017. DUO Security offers a wide range of authentication tools that support secure remote access. You can even go beyond multi-factor authentication to zero-trust authentication, offering you the latest technology to secure your network. With DUO, access to your systems happens at the application level, not the user level, offering a better way to secure your network. However, these security protocols are things that you should have in place regardless if your employee is on-prem or working remote. Security should not be the blocker to adopting a telework policy for your agency.
There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to initiating flexible work schedules and offering your employees teleworking options. The technology is available to support these initiatives. The policy initiative has been created to develop telework solutions for government agencies. It’s now time to get these programs up and running to help your agency recruit and retain top talent.
Visit www.telework.gov for more information on teleworking solutions to federal agencies. If you are ready to initiate a teleworking program in your agency but need to modernize your collaboration tools, Force 3 can evaluate your current environment and offer solutions to support your mission. Learn more about our Collaboration Services and submit a contact form to see how we can help you improve employee morale, recruit top talent, and keep the talent you have with a robust teleworking program supported by the industry’s most powerful, secure collaboration tools.
By Paul Immo, Solutions Architect
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