Professional working remotely

Benefits and challenges in work-from-home for federal agencies

Remote work was an unfamiliar concept to many employees before 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change within the workforce around the globe. One result of this change was increased flexibility within the workplace, including new work from home options, which have sparked interest among employees after being forced to work from home during the pandemic. This flexibility has challenged organizations to create new and innovative ways for their employees to communicate and collaborate on day-to-day tasks.

Cisco survey of Global IT Leaders and Workers 2021 reported 64% of respondents said having some flexibility in work location directly affects whether they will stay at or leave a job.

Federal agencies have continued to re-envision their workforce beyond the pandemic era, so employees can continue to telework. By re-configuring their work environment and offering flexible work to their employees, federal agencies can expand their talent pool and recruit top talent from a broader range of geographies.

OPM’s 2021 Federal Employee Satisfaction Survey found that 36% of respondents reported 100% telework and another 21% reported teleworking at least one day a week.

Baker Tilly Digital’s Meghan Loomis, Director, and Courtney Csik, Senior Manager, discussed remote work within government agencies and the benefits and challenges these agencies face as they adapt to a new way of working.

Q: What are the benefits to remote work in the federal sector?

Csik: One of the benefits to remote work for the government is that it enables agencies to search for candidates outside of a particular city or state where a job is posted. Therefore, remote work increases their candidate pools, enables federal agencies to scale their internal recruiting strategies and align to their national strategies, which in turn gives employees and agencies more opportunity and benefit.

Loomis: More and more industry is moving to telework and flexible work options. In order to stay competitive and recruit top talent, government will need to offer work flexibility to encourage more individuals to gravitate toward government jobs and see those career paths as great opportunities to pursue their professional goals.

There has been a 343% increase in mentions of “flexibility” in company job posts on LinkedIn since 2019.

Csik: Additionally, if agencies lean into remote work, it can help them achieve their goals for interagency collaboration. Federal agencies are placing a high importance on increased communication, synergies across agencies and interagency collaboration in how they work, what they work on and the tools used to meet their missions. Telework can be a contributing factor to interagency collaboration. With the number of remote workers increasing, the mechanisms, digital tools and procedures have had to adapt and change. Agencies need to adjust to new strategies and tools to make it easier to communicate from one remote worker to the next. The next evolution should be easier connection outside of a single agency, leading and helping the government to meet the goals of interagency collaboration.

Q: Have government standards been altered as more offices offer hybrid or fully remote workforces?

Loomis: Working with government agencies can present a unique challenge to enact policy or even legislative change in order to make these modern, commercial best practice processes come to life.

Csik: One major, long running, standard for the federal sector is around paper processes. Paper processes really cannot endure in the movement toward hybrid and remote work. At this point, there’s not a complete elimination of paper processes, however, there’s a shift in how paper processes are utilized and how they’re complemented with modern technology. As with any change, there’s going to be challenges in moving from paper to digitized processes. Paper processes in the government have been around for decades. These agencies are making a gradual shift from paper and not trying to boil the ocean right off the bat. This shift has proven successful for agencies who have embraced modern cloud technologies and begun their journeys toward digital transformation.

Loomis: Another standard that has started to change is the ability for the government to expand its partnerships and forge new relationships and collaborations. Remote and hybrid work is opening the door for nontraditional government contractors to engage with the federal government, allowing the government to source a broader pool of companies and advisors for their work.

Q: Is communication more challenging when working in a hybrid environment?

Csik: Communication is not necessarily more challenging because of telework, but challenges can arise with any changes in how we communicate. As long as agencies are intentional about leveraging technology in a cost effective and pragmatic way, they can overcome those challenges and ultimately improve communications in the long run.

Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study 2022 surveyed 28,000 full time employees across 27 industries about hybrid workforce. 53% responded increased use of technology was a critical factor and 50% said there is a greater use of virtual meeting and collaboration tools for operating and supporting a hybrid workforce.

Q: How have performance management systems aided in monitoring employee outcomes and achieving goals in a hybrid environment?

Csik: Having a modern performance management system that facilitates the goal setting and performance review processes is a good start, but it is only table stakes. What’s even more important is how an agency implements and uses that system, and the business process execution. If both of those things are considered, then the system will aid in a few major ways:

  • A performance management system centralizes information collected on an employee. Performance management is no longer a one time a year activity come annual appraisal time. Instead, employees are working towards goals, adapting goals and achieving outcomes throughout the year and having a traceable digital record of that is really a game changer. It is especially helpful when it comes to evaluating performance for federal employees with multiple years of experience and multiple inter-agency or intra-agency transfers.
  • Performance systems aid in leading to consistent data outputs for the organization which will lead to more standard ways of monitoring employee outcomes. Implementing standard, agency-wide digital performance processes will drive consistency in the employee experience which allows employees to focus on their goals and not the process itself.
  • The performance management system is more of a facilitator of conversations. It makes room for those conversations to occur between the employee and their supervisor. The agency still needs to design a process that works for them and implement a system that supports that process, so that they can effectively define and align an individual's goals to the agency strategies and mission.
  • Performance management systems assist in monitoring employee outcomes and achieving goals by driving traffic to the system. More traffic means the workforce is interacting within the system more. The self-service feature helps employees become more consistent in entering and updating their personnel data, helping agencies maximize resources. Overall, performance management impacts a high number of stakeholders from employees to supervisors to HR professionals, so driving high volume traffic will help collect more data that can be used to make decisions.

Baker Tilly Digital brings comprehensive Oracle Cloud solution expertise to help federal agencies implement a solution that meets their needs and helps them achieve their goals. Federal agencies engage Baker Tilly Digital to solve their most pressing problems and leverage new technology to meet their missions by focusing on improving business practices. Our Oracle Cloud implementation consultants assist government agencies to successfully navigate the complexities of large-scale back office transformation initiatives. Reach out to our Oracle Cloud professionals today to learn more about digital transformation for federal agencies.

Meghan Loomis