When it comes to the workplace, even the secret services become “hybrid”



The future of work in the federal government is just around the corner as the agencies prepare new teleworking and remote flexibilities in accordance with the most recent guidelines from the Biden administration.

Even the intelligence community – notoriously inflexible when it comes to when and where their employees work – seems ready to accept the hybrid work environment.

“The hybrid work environment is not a question of ought, but of must,” said Susan Kalweit, senior associate for culture and excellence at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, on Tuesday at a FedInsider webinar on remote intelligence.

Many IC agencies shifted more work to the unclassified area, allowing employees to work odd hours and staggered shifts in Sensitive Information Facilities (SCIFs) during the pandemic.

Such hybrid working arrangements will continue for many intelligence agencies in the intelligence community, said Sherry Van Sloun, deputy director of the national intelligence agency for human capital in the office of the director of the national intelligence agency.

ODNI itself recently signed a new teleworking directive.

“If it’s doable and it’s really unclassified, it might be home two days a week, work three days a week,” said Van Sloun. “Even [with] We offer different working hours for these three working days [and] so that you can work in the evenings or even on weekends. We find ways to just be really creative, to give people space to do the work they have to do. “

The National Awareness Bureau does not see a mass exodus of people leaving the agency, but some staff have expressed an interest in moving to a position conducive to full-time teleworking, said Liz Gruchacz, the agency’s human resources director.

“They want to keep the flexibility they were given during COVID,” she said. We are often asked that. Can we continue to do this? People like the balance between working outside of SCIF and working outside of SCIF. The NGO is definitely looking at different ways in which we can continue and expand our current offer, but we want that flexibility for those who wish. “

But with these hybrid work arrangements and new workplace flexibilities, there inevitably comes a mix of employee emotions, and some agency directors and supervisors admit they need to prepare for all of them.

For some employees, they hope to continue working from home, Kalweit said.

“They hope for the hybrid working environment so that they can continue to benefit from the work flexibility they are used to, and [they’re] They feel like they have created healthier and more satisfying work and living habits, ”she said. “Some teammates are also very hopeful of maintaining the hybrid work environment as it progresses, as it is stress-free from microaggressions and similar behaviors that these teammates have faced within the building that they don’t have to deal with when they do work in a teleworking situation. That made them more productive and also created a stronger sense of belonging when they work from home. “

But others are still afraid of the pandemic. They are concerned about upcoming COVID-19 variants and whether the vaccines will be effective in the future.

Others, said Kalweit, feel completely different.

“There are also teammates who are very excited and grateful that they are returning to the building,” she said. “They are fed up with the pandemic, they miss seeing their colleagues, and they want life to return to normal. The hybrid environment may not be really interesting for them. “

The sheer diversity means agency managers and supervisors need to recognize that employees in different locations are emerging from the pandemic. Kalweit said it was up to the leadership to create the right conditions for employees to be successful and accomplish the mission at the same time.

“As leaders, we need to acknowledge that every emotion – hope, fear, excitement, and more – are valid emotions and are now part of our workplace,” said Kalweit. “In order to successfully change our organizational norms in favor of a hybrid work environment, we have to accept all of these emotions and address them in a unique way.”

Hybrid work arrangements present several challenges for managers and supervisors to juggle a workplace where some employees are on-site while others work from home, the IC executives said.

“There is consistency when absolutely everyone is away, and there is consistency when absolutely everyone is there. But when you have half of the room in person and half of the room on the video screen, it is harder for managers and attendees to attend this meeting fully, ”said Hayden Temin, assistant director of human resources at the FBI. “For each of us it just requires that we learn new tools and techniques and continue to be flexible and change our own styles.”

Hybrid work environments will create a cultural shift in the way managers and supervisors communicate with employees and have expectations for performance and promotion, said IC executives.

Kalweit said some employees planning on resuming some form of remote work ask their supervisors about their performance reviews and ratings – and how they fare against colleagues who may be in the office all the time.

“They are used to accounting for work done by seeing teammates sitting in their chairs or at their desks. Now they ask themselves, ‘Well, how do I know my teammate or co-worker is doing their job if I can’t see them visibly in their chair?’ “She said. “Perhaps there is a certain skepticism among teammates as to whether their teammates actually work at home. Superiors and managers struggle with this problem of declaring fairness and even feel that I have fair expectations in my team. “

NGA uses virtual whiteboard platforms where employees can collaborate online throughout the day and brainstorm ideas to give employees a visible space to get involved.

As agencies like ODNI and others loosen up flexibility in the workplace, intelligence agencies are discussing how to better promote these perks to potential recruits and new hires, Van Sloun said.

“How do we talk about it when we run our recruiting events, about how the intelligence community is really trying to get involved and not go back to where we were before? We are really going to take stock and take a new direction, ”she said. “We are becoming more flexible with regard to the future of work, the future workforce and the future workplace.”


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