Hybrid work can be a staple for government employees, Cisco thinks

As federal agencies attempt to define the post-pandemic work environment, hybrid schedules are expected to continue at all levels of government, according to a report by Cisco Systems Inc.

More than 90% of technology decision-makers in federal, state, and local governments are happy with their remote work arrangements, with a current average of four remote days per week. Almost 60% are working entirely remotely, the report found when surveying 300 executives, administrators and IT professionals in government from February to March.

“Whether you’re talking about community service or national security, including the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies, I think this ultimately gives them a much-needed opportunity to truly modernize,” said Marcus Moffett, Cisco’s chief technology officer , Federal Times said in an interview.

As required by the White House Office of Personnel Management and detailed in its 2021 Telecommuting Guidelines, each federal executive agency must establish a policy that allows eligible employees to telecommute. Attempts by the authorities to limit telecommuting for government employees have been opposed by unions, most recently one representing employees at the US Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Services. Even the US Army is testing how well remote work fits into their office environment.

Teleworking allows employees to share regularly scheduled days on-site and off-site, e.g. B. at home to work. It’s not a fully remote environment, although OPM is finding requests for remote work more and more frequently.

Moffett called the telecommuting experiment imposed by the pandemic “an 850+ day living laboratory.” This led to the realization that employees not only prefer flexibility in the workplace, but prioritize it.

These attitudes can affect job turnover in both the public and private sectors. 64 percent of those surveyed for Cisco’s 2021 Hybrid Work Index said that flexibility in the workplace is the key factor in whether they leave a position, and flexibility in working from home and setting a schedule are the biggest influencers had job satisfaction.

At the 2022 Acquisition Conference hosted by the Professional Services Council, officials from OPM and the General Services Administration discussed how the “great resignation” of millions of private sector workers should better be viewed as a “great restructuring” among government agencies where workers are on in search of better benefits such as workplace flexibility.

“Some of the causes are at the scale where agencies need to determine what remote work looks like, what hybrid work looks like, and what telecommute looks like,” said Peter Bonner, associate director of human resources solutions at OPM, at the conference. “Sometimes there are reshuffles when people move because they see something more attractive in the agency next door.”

Since the pandemic, employee surveys and research have revealed that telecommuting and remote working can be leverage for hiring managers. For a government that has expanded talent initiatives focused on diverse applicants and skill-based training, maximizing job flexibility could be a strategy for President Joe Biden’s agency heads to make federal jobs accessible as pandemic health concerns linger.

How will the relationship between managers and employees change?

OPM said considering employees’ needs and wants related to teleworking is good practice as a means of retention and a “potential positive trait” in recruitment.

“This is the great opportunity for the government [flexible work] opens up a wide range of available employees to cover specific jobs,” said Moffett. What the government may lack in competitive wages it could make up for by offering an exemplary hybrid work environment, he said.

Chris Bennethum, who works in the GSA Office of Assisted Acquisition Services within the Federal Acquisition Service, told the PSC conference that when federal agencies compete for talent, they also compete for culture. Speaking on his part of the GSA, Bennethum said turnover rates had increased over the past 18 months.

“People make choices that reflect their priorities in life,” he said at the conference.

Moffett and others said job flexibility is emblematic of changing work culture and the relationship between managers and employees. He said this could create opportunities for sourcing and investment in small, diverse companies headquartered outside the Capitol that have solutions to meet the government’s work-from-home technology needs.

According to an analysis by the Bloomberg government, federal agencies were on track to spend 20% more on contracts for cloud computing services like servers, storage, databases, and networks in fiscal 2021 than they did in 2020.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend, forcing agencies to make new investments in cloud-based infrastructure and collaboration tools to support a remote federal workforce,” the analysis said.

“The government has no choice but to invest,” Moffett said.

Molly Weisner is a reporter for the Federal Times, where she covers industry issues related to the government workforce. She previously worked as a producer at USA Today and McClatchy, and as an editor at the New York Times Printing Office. Molly studied journalism and French at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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