Federal Workforce Mobility Here to Stay
While federal agencies have embraced telework since the early 2000’s, nothing could have prepared them for the massive shift to remote work last year when the pandemic hit. If the message was unclear prior to 2020, it’s clear now: remote work can be just as productive as onsite work, and it can drastically improve employee job satisfaction.
While some employees will eventually move back into the office environment, many agencies have expressed an interest in expanding their remote work scenarios permanently. The new reality for remote work will probably be a hybrid model, where workers spend some days working from home and others from the office. One new study found that more than 80 percent of federal employees think the switch to telework will continue, with 82 percent
indicating they expect to work from home three days per week or more. The Senate seems to support this idea; with many leaders hoping to expand the Pandemic Federal Telework Act, in part to allow agencies to hire employees from remote locations.
Preparing for the long term
While agencies have learned valuable lessons about the benefits of remote work, they also have learned what makes remote work seamless and safe—effective tools and a strong security framework. With these in place, employees working from home can participate in meetings, collaborate with others and generally remain productive.
At a DOD briefing last April, Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, then Air Force CIO, put it this way: “To appreciate the scope and scale of our task, our work is to enable productive collaboration for over four million military and civilian worldwide teleworkers with innovative tools that are both cutting-edge and secure, often with overnight demands.”
Getting it right requires reviewing and standardizing in three areas: devices, tools and secure remote access, and then finding a way to integrate it all together.
The physical set-up: It’s important to make sure that remote employees are working on devices that meet agency standards, especially if the agency has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. All users also should able to access the same platform and visual experience as other team members. One of the most important tools agencies can provide employees to ensure secure devices is Enterprise Mobility Management. EMM can help agencies reliably deploy and oversee mobile devices. This helps ensure secure devices, as well as the security of agency data.
Productivity tools: During the pandemic, many agencies permitted employees to use whatever they could to get their work done. While effective, these tools often were not up to the standards that agencies typically demand. Now that the worst has passed, it’s time for agencies to standardize the technology for meetings, collaboration and productivity, ensuring that they are effective and secure. These technologies include modern messaging platforms, application virtualization and file sharing.
Secure remote access: Secure transmission of data, robust authentication and authorization, and solid network security are critical to the success of remote work, along with high availability and reliability. For many agencies, the first step should be consulting the Trusted Internet Connections 3 (TIC 3.0) use case for remote users, which defines how network and multi-boundary security should be applied for remote users who perform business functions outside of physical agency premises.
Scott Balthasar, a cyber security architect at CDW•G, recommends starting with a solution for Trusted Thin Client Remote (TTC:R), also known as Secure Remote Access. Combined with the NSA’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC), TTC:R provides secure, compliant, and NSA approved means of access. Another option is a Secure Managed Infrastructure (SMI) solution, which provides enhanced monitoring, detection, auditing, and response capabilities to agencies.
Integration: Developing a comprehensive approach that enables employees to securely work from anywhere, on any device, while complying with all agency regulations, is a big job. It starts with assigning requirements and identifying the right technologies followed by integrating them into a fully functional ecosystem.
Each of these steps may seem overwhelming, but agencies can rely on the ITES series of contracts to simplify the process. Each of the three ITES contracts takes on some of these major areas: ITES SW-2 for software, ITES-3H for hardware, and ITES-3 Services for assessment and integration services. With this approach, agencies can fulfill the promise of remote work over the long term.