The vast majority of remote workers want to keep working from home, at least some of the time, even after the pandemic. For state and local governments to stay competitive in the labor market and attract top talent from beyond their local area, IT leaders will have to urgently rethink their strategies and make remote and hybrid work an effective, positive, and secure experience for their employees.
For most, that will also take a greater investment in technology and cybersecurity. Governments have historically lagged in adoption of technology, a luxury they can no longer afford. With the right approach, clear outcomes in mind, and the proper buy-in, governments can find a path forward, all within a realistic budget.
Here is how public sector agencies can successfully meet the challenges of the new reality of remote and hybrid work:
1. Assess existing IT system health from a comprehensive hardware/software/network perspective. Take an inventory and see what cybersecurity and other safeguards are already in place for hybrid and remote work. Be honest about where the gaps are. Even better: reach out to qualified companies to help with the assessment and to provide expertise and training. The job of government is governing, not technology and IT departments are already stretched thin. Be clear about your overall goals and identify the requirements that will help you achieve them.
2. Conduct a detailed budget analysis. You’re going to have to find a service model that fits into your budget. With more of your employees working remotely, where can you invest in the right software systems? For instance, will applications and platforms like Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace allow you to consolidate other technologies, software, or hardware, so you can improve efficiency and free up funds at the same time? Many options will be pay-as-you-go software-as-a-service, rather than having to pay up front with a contract. This can work to your advantage — software-as-a-service can now help fill IT gaps more quickly than in the days of on-premise hardware and software systems. Catching up on technology will be easier to manage and iterate now that more governments are in the cloud. Yet, don’t get caught unaware on cost. Conduct a detailed budget analysis that includes both upfront and monthly costs for any solution.
3. Create and maintain a hybrid work culture. That begins with leadership standing up and making it clear that hybrid or remote work is the way forward. Then, set clear expectations around how hybrid or remote policies will work and what will be required of employees. It’s critical that every employee has buy-in and a firm grasp on what’s expected.
4. Meet employees where they are. You’ll have to accommodate employees of every age and experience, including those with disabilities. All technology must be accessible and productive for everyone, yet not every employee is the same. That’s why to increase productivity, you have to individualize training for each employee. When employees become discouraged (“It’s too slow,” “I don’t like the platform,” “I can’t do what I used to be able to do”) they can hinder the culture you’re working to create. Pay attention to this employee feedback on how it’s working and quickly course-correct, where necessary.
Larry Frazier is Chief Strategy Officer at Iron Bow Technologies where he develops and leads the execution of programmatic business that drives the advancement, engagement, and efficacy of the organization’s global sales practice. He is a retired U.S. Army veteran and previously held key roles at Cisco.