Telework has been a pushed agenda for the federal sector for at least the last year, offering mixed reviews of either supported utilization or adamant refusal. And while many articles have been written touting the extensive benefits of remote work in private sector companies, there are a few hurdles in the public sector that private entities are not facing. The question is, are they true obstacles or merely excuses preventing change within certain organizations? Here is a breakdown of the top reasons teleworking might not be as feasible within government, along with corresponding responses on how to overcome each.
- Managers don’t know how to manage their teleworking employees. Leadership training in this area can go a long way to help managers understand how to manage employees from a distance. Inevitably, they will need to learn to shift their focus from wanting to check in on them to make sure they are keeping busy to driving results.
- Overcoming the obstacle of network security for those not on-site presents a problem. Those organizations that have begun utilizing telework programs offer their employees the ability to access their secure server from anywhere, using a secure log-in just like the one they use in-office.
- There is a lack of IT support for those with a home office. With the new BYOD initiative, all federal agencies will need to offer some sort of accessibility for their staff using their own devices, both in and out of the office. As a result, IT support will be available no matter what device they are using.
- Meetings are more of a challenge when team members are not in the office. While this may be true due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and the often challenging video-conferencing technology, there are many simple programs that offer video chat in a simple, low bandwidth format, so if the office’s VTC is on the fritz once again, utilizing programs like Skype (which is free) or GoToMeeting (which charges a nominal fee for operation across an organization) are often better alternatives with clearer resolution and less frequent cutting out. And if the whole team is out teleworking in the same area, why not set up a meeting in a coffee shop and spend a couple of hours hashing things out there?
- People may not be as productive or creative when working remotely. This goes back to managers trusting their employees to get their work done without having to look over their shoulders to make sure they are staying on task. Aside from that, not every situation or individual is meant for telework. Even those who do telework, it might be best if they do still come into the office at least one or two days a week, especially when collaboration with teammates is needed. Additionally, some positions simply do not constitute remote work, particularly those that require a great deal of interaction.
Part of the process of transitioning to a more telework-friendly environment is to set guidelines and parameters so that it can be effective for those who would benefit from it. The challenges government agencies face are legitimate, but not without solutions. In the end, the culture shift is the biggest hurdle to overcome in bringing telework on board in an organization.
What challenges has your organization faced when it comes to telework? How have you worked to overcome them, or is telework frowned upon in your agency?