Apr 30 2024
Digital Workspace

How to Outfit Teleworkers with the Technologies They Need

As hybrid work becomes a mainstay, IT leaders must follow best practices for planning, deploying and securing the underlying technology.

Agencies have made significant and enduring shifts in how they use technology to enable remote and hybrid work.

Videoconferencing and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and upgraded microphones and monitors in conference rooms have all become standard.

A recent Government Accountability Office report highlights both the continuing benefits of telework and the challenges that agencies face, plus best practices that they should follow as they continue to adapt how they operate. The Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to bring employees back to the office post-pandemic in spring 2023 while still allowing telework when it improves an agency’s operational health.

Telework remains an important tool that agencies can use to “be resilient and to recruit and retain employees from a larger pool of talent and greater geographic areas,” says Dawn Locke, director of federal workforce and government performance on the Strategic Issues team at GAO.

However, to be successful “it requires reliable data and following key practices of successful telework programs,” Locke says. “One of those practices helps ensure that appropriate technology and security can support telework.”

Click the banner below to begin modernizing your agency's digital experience.


Assessing IT Needs for Federal Telework

The GAO report notes that, when it comes to the technology needed for telework, agencies should do the following:

  • Assess teleworker and organization technology needs
  • Develop guidelines about whether the organization or employee will provide necessary technology, equipment and supplies for telework
  • Provide technical support for teleworkers
  • Address access and security issues related to telework
  • Establish standards for equipment in the telework environment

When determining the tech that they should invest in, IT leaders should “prioritize aspects such as security, reliability, ease of use, maintenance, cost predictability, interoperability and innovation,” says Doug Buffkin, regional vice president of business development for public sector at RingCentral.

Reliability and ensuring that agency employees can collaborate whenever they need to is critical, Buffkin says. IT leaders should also consider the age of their existing tools and determine whether they are investing in individual software products or platforms that can be expanded with new functionality and interoperate with other tools seamlessly and securely. They should also assess whether the agency can pivot easily and if the IT environment can be flexible and innovative as new features are introduced.

“This evaluation can help agency leaders identify redundancies, outdated systems or inefficiencies that may be hindering teleworkers’ productivity and can serve as the foundation for making informed technology investments,” Buffkin says.

DISCOVER: Digital collaboration tools are powering federal productivity.

Agencies should also prioritize infrastructure that allows large numbers of employees to telework simultaneously, Locke says.

“Agencies should assess the extent to which their infrastructure is adequate to support increased telework, especially during peak periods, including whether technical support is sufficient, and address any access and security issues they identify,” she says.

Addressing Enduring Telework Tech Challenges

In GAO’s review of agencies that had to dramatically pivot during the pandemic, it found challenges in getting financial support for the most efficient remote work technology, Locke says.

“When the pandemic hit, this was an unplanned expenditure and required agencies to borrow from other funding sources to address the immediate need,” she says.

Additionally, agencies may continue to face “issues with executive leadership prioritizing the right tools for remote workers,” Locke says.

RELATED: The National Science Foundation is adapting telework to a hybrid world.

“It’s a very different mindset for a government agency, and there can be difficulties getting the necessary focus of resources to support these remote workers,” she says.

IT leaders must also ensure that telework tools remain as secure as possible as hybrid work continues, since telework potentially opens new avenues for breaches, Buffkin says.

“One easy way to do this is to use cloud applications to stay current with security patching,” he says. “Unlike traditional on-premises systems, cloud services often automate security updates and patches, ensuring that systems are always protected against known vulnerabilities and reducing agencies’ exposure window.”

Software interoperability between solutions can also minimize vulnerabilities by speeding up detection and response times, Buffkin says.

“And for agency employees who work to address critical citizen needs, using secure communication tools is vital to protecting sensitive personal information,” he says. “Agencies with these security principles already built into their cloud-based communications infrastructure can ensure safer and more resilient interactions, no matter where employees may be located.”

South_agency/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT