How Federal Agencies Can Prepare to Implement OPM's Remote Work Guidance
For many federal agencies, the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) recent 2021 Guide to Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government memo ushers in a new era of opportunity when it comes to prioritizing telework initiatives. It also introduces new questions, however. As the first major change to federal telework guidance in over a decade, the implementation of such a modern telework strategy can appear daunting, complex, and confusing. Factor in the unique missions, audiences, and workforce needs of every federal agency, and the path forward is anything but linear. But full telework transformation is worth the growing pains because it will dramatically upgrade the way employees and citizens experience your agency and services. To help your agency take those difficult first few steps toward teleworking, we’ve put together a list of three preliminary steps that will help establish a strong foundation for remote work. But first, some context.
Unprecedented challenges for the public sector
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, the public sector—where service continuity is mission critical—was hit harder than most. Federal agencies were stress-tested like never before. (For that, public services are due heartfelt thanks from all of us.) But much of the technology and strategies in place at the time simply weren’t up to the challenge, making it harder to meet the moment. Sweeping office shutdowns paused in-person work and slowed services, creating staggering backlogs (including a half million visa applications in queue and 16-week wait times for passports.) Unsurprisingly, productivity and satisfaction dipped among federal employees at this time, too—further exacerbating logjams across the public sector.
But challenges are opportunities in disguise
The silver lining is that today’s tech is up to the challenge of the new OPM guidelines—and with a little time to build a modern telework strategy, agencies can quickly realize the advantages it offers. Today’s cloud-based tools enable more effective service delivery. They improve customer satisfaction and come standard with next-level security. Additionally, they give employees unprecedented flexibility—a make-or-break condition for many workers right now. All of this better positions federal agencies for future catastrophic events. It’s a rare win-win-win. So, the new OPM hybrid-work guidelines are a needed step forward in the progression of public services. But getting from here to there is easier said than done.
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So, what can you do to start your technology transformation today?
The new remote work memo guidance offers broad-stroke recommendations and a laundry list of resources, but it doesn’t provide specific steps to begin your technology transformation. The following are best practices to help you get the ball rolling.
1. Learn from your peers who are teleworking successfully and avoid potential pitfalls
A recent OPM survey found that 3% of federal employees teleworked pre-pandemic, while 47% were teleworking as of Fall 2021. The trend is obvious and breathtakingly quick. Pandemic or not, telework is clearly here to stay. The good news is that some federal agencies are already teleworking successfully, on a widespread basis, and baking it into their culture.
For you, that means no need to reinvent the wheel or learn the hard way. Not when you can learn from cross-agency peers that are a few steps ahead of you in the process. Their experience and best practices can save your agency time and money and fast-track your own telework transformation. A great example is the USPTO. It was an early adopter of teleworking, not as a temporary workaround but as a permanent means to attract high-level talent, elevate employee performance, and deliver customer satisfaction.
2. Identify your agency’s unique remote work needs and define success
Diagnose the obstacles holding your agency back from enabling every worksite to be remote. Then articulate what success looks like. Here again, you can look to the USPTO for inspiration. Their barriers to entry were significant, including efficiently accessing huge files, patenting photos, and securing mass amounts of proprietary information. But, by leveraging the latest technology, the USPTO empowered patent examiners to effectively work from anywhere. It was a gamechanger for the busy agency. One of the many benefits they’ve experienced is a newfound ability to attract and retain highly specialized workers, despite the Great Resignation.
You can also look to FEMA as another North Star on your path to teleworking. Remote-friendly tech has taken FEMA’s disaster response to the next level. Today, their incident-management teams put boots—and secure workstations—on the ground everywhere emergencies happen. By being fully functional from anywhere, FEMA teams are better able to lift us up when our lives are turned upside down. And help us put the pieces back together when all seems lost.
Learn more about identifying your telework needs.
3. Understand the security and trust the technology
Many agencies have taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach and are reluctant to embrace technology due to security concerns—which is understandable because job #1 is protecting citizen’s data. But lingering myths around cloud security are just that—myths. According to Deloitte, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) actually encounters 60% fewer security incidents than on-premise solutions. Simply put, the technology has gotten good, very good, and very safe.
That’s because billions of dollars have been invested in data privacy by leading cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. These highly secure privacy frameworks are the foundation of many public contact centers. Even the CIA now uses the cloud to store top-secret information. To build your own confidence in cloud-based services, confirm that your partners and providers maintain data certifications relevant to your industry, such as PCI-DSS, SOC 2, HIPAA, FedRAMP and others.
See the top 5 obstacles to cloud migration (and how to overcome them).
Personalized telework guidance is just a click away
At Avtex employee and customer experiences are our in our DNA. We have decades of experience working with federal agencies. And we can help you successfully adopt and adapt technologies to not only meet new OPM guidelines, but upgrade your agency’s EX and CX in the process. We’ll work alongside your IT team, filling the strategy and expertise gaps as needed. Together, we can identify your agency’s unique needs, then design and execute a holistic solution that makes full teleworking a reality for your organization.