The federal implications of today’s BYOE paradigm
Federal agencies have been experimenting with remote work for decades, but until the pandemic occurred, only a few agencies, including the U.S. Patent & Trademark Organization (USPTO), NASA, the General Services Administration (GSA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), had embraced it on a large scale. Prior to the shutdown, only 55 percent of the 907,813 telework-eligible federal employees were working remotely to any extent, underscoring potential obstacles in doing so.
So, what have we learned so far, having more than a year of wide-scale remote work under our belt? And what are the opportunities for government that lie ahead as leaders weigh their next steps?
Big, rapid change is doable. Agencies and their employees discovered they are nimbler than they might have thought. Agencies had to loosen restrictions on where employees can work, equip them with the tools to do so, support them both professionally and personally, and then figure out how to achieve their mission objectives virtually — all in short order.
It’s time to re-imagine traditional work structures. It turns out many meetings simply aren't that necessary (imagine that!). What’s more, that standard eight-hour shift may not be optimal for everyone and sitting at a desk doesn't always translate into productivity. In fact, many federal leaders found that moving to a remote work model yielded productivity levels that were the same or better than before the pandemic.
Long-term success requires stakeholder engagement. Agency managers will need to engage their many stakeholders, including federal unions, to re-calibrate workplace policies and practices, affecting everything from performance appraisals and job descriptions to interoffice communications and recruiting.
BYOE augurs big changes for recruitment. As more and more positions become remote-enabled, recruiting efforts can be freed up to expand from a local focus to a more national focus, dramatically widening the available labor pool for many positions.
Workplace and work time are changing. It’s not just the workplace that’s become more fluid with BYOE – it’s also the workday itself. This means agencies will need to think about how to adjust workplace policies and protocols to fit today’s more fluid schedules.