The global effects of COVID-19 caused a sudden shift to remote work for everyone. As businesses are beginning to reopen, employers are faced with returning to the office or keeping things virtual. Besides an increased emphasis on hygiene safety and potentially some staff rotations, some workplaces will return to operations as usual. Restaurants and retail will have their doors open again through the states’ reopening phases, but not all businesses require face-to-face exchanges with their employees and their customers. Some companies may offer more remote opportunities to their employees and some may go fully remote if they find that the benefits of working from home outweigh the benefits of being in the office. But what about the companies and the employees in the public sector? The government employees and the government contractors.
The challenges that remote work poses to the public sector primarily revolve around security and network infrastructure. Because of this, some government employees that do work from home experience poor connections which results in delays. Whether the employees are connecting to the server located at their workplace or their home network, some bandwidths are unable to support the work that needs to be done. In addition to less than ideal home network capabilities, cyber defenses at home are weaker. When you think about it, government contracting companies and agencies have an entire cybersecurity team to monitor their networks. What happens when those networks are dispersed across the region? What happens when hackers take advantage of this crisis? The need to protect classified data and defend networks is and always will be top priority. Because of these challenges and concerns, remote work for the public sector has been seen at lower levels than other industries… until now.
The impact of COVID-19 stressed the importance of reform and flexibility for remote work in the public sector. New efforts in place, such as the “Defense Department’s cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC) initiative”, will continue to accelerate telework in the public sector and with that, there will be a push for data localization of government information. The COVID-19 impact forced employers and employees to adapt because if one thing is certain, there is a lot of uncertainty in the world. In case something like COVID-19 were to hit again, it’s best to be prepared. The focus may not be on what’s most efficient because efficiency often takes time to develop. The focus will be on what’s most resilient, what will continue to stand during times of tribulation, and what can be supported virtually.
With the increase of remote workers in the public sector, the procedures took by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is worth highlighting here. The agency admits they had to act quickly to accommodate at home workers once the pandemic hit and within 72 hours they had put together a command and control team to monitor their networks and ensure 24/7 network and mobile capabilities. This support does not only cover DISA employees, but the Defense Department and military services. “In this most unusual case, that support has included an increase in circuit capacity of 500 gigabytes, the expansion of virtual private networks (VPNs) to more than 122,000 personnel and the purchase of Microsoft Teams collaboration tools and anti-virus software to deployed to new teleworkers across the department.” Positions were changed. Priorities were redirected. Everyone had to adjust.
The next few months are unclear. Some public sector companies are staying remote for now while others have adapted a hybrid approach, some days in the office and some days working from home. Change within the public sector will take time as they continue to work out kinks in the security and network infrastructure, but change is coming and to be frank, remote work is working.