teleworker at desk (elenabsl/Shutterstock.com)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

The shift to telework: Advice and lessons learned

Across state and local government, agencies by and large have adjusted to the new teleworking environment. Spurred by IT modernization efforts, organizations have rapidly and successfully set up the infrastructure to support remote employee access while defending government systems against bad actors and ransomware attacks.

While agencies have adjusted to the requirements dictated by the COVID-19 outbreak, with a second wave expected, they must now consider lessons learned and determine what can be done differently should telework capabilities need to rapidly scale up for a second time. Crucially, now is the time for agencies to refine their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. In stressful and uncertain times like these, the risk of human error rises. Coupled with today’s teleworking environment and increased security risks to state and local networks, systems are more likely to be compromised. Data-protection features, such as backup and rapid restore, are essential for quickly recovering data after a disruptive event and ensuring mission-critical support.

State and local government IT leaders should consider several best practices to create a robust, yet secure foundation for permanently expanded telework:

Remain vigilant and proactive. Despite the fact that agencies rose to the occasion, their response was a reaction to an emergency, and decisions regarding technologies that support critical government services and business continuity may have been rushed. Now, agencies must continue to innovate to further enhance and sustain their remote workforces by adopting long-term solutions with new consumption models. While short-term fixes got agencies past initial telework obstacles, these same solutions will not necessarily get them to where they need to be in the long term. Permanently expanded telework, for example, requires agencies to rethink their approach to storage. Storage as a service offers agencies a way to expand capacity as they need it and ensure employees have continued access to the resources they need to work and collaborate.

Embrace cultural shifts. Many agencies may have opted for infrastructure and security products and services under the assumption that the telework situation was only temporary. As public health information and guidelines evolve, however, it’s becoming clear that virtual work is here to stay. It may not be feasible to have all employees work in a fully remote environment, but many workers could see increased flexibility when it comes to telework. More than ever, leaders must challenge assumptions about ways of working and seek partners that can help them match the rapid pace of change. They must have the courage to avoid the status quo – by implementing next-generation technologies and consumption models. For example, deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offers simplified management, enhanced security and better performance, enabling greater agility across dispersed workforces.

Address the people factor. As we have seen, what’s been successful for in-office work arrangements does not always translate to telework environments. Leaders are responsible for steering their teams through such disruptive change, ensuring employees can connect, support the mission and sustain productivity for the long haul. Therefore, it is crucial they proactively talk with their teams about their needs and performance and integrate this feedback to make sure employees feel part of a cohesive organization. Leaders’ ability to leverage their soft skills and demonstrate them in a virtual work environment will be paramount.

With these best practices in mind, agency leaders will be better prepared to continue accelerating the government’s shift to digital. They will be able to leverage budget and emergency funding to update old infrastructure and avoid the need for future upgrades. Specifically, success starts with the right foundation: a modern data experience to support leaders and remote employees over the long term.

As agencies look to our new future, they need a simple, modern data experience that enables them to use more of their data, while reducing the complexity and expense of managing the infrastructure behind it. A modern data experience should be API-defined, with easy, common management tools and proactive analytics that are actionable at the scale of numerous government employees and VDIs. It should be seamless and span any protocol, any tier of service level and multiple clouds in a single environment.

Lastly, the modern data experience must be sustainable in the midst of rapid change; agencies should be able to buy only what is needed, and the experience should be self-upgrading.

The increase in remote workers will not snap back when the pandemic subsides – in many cases, these changes are permanent. Establishing and maintaining a telework-ready environment is critical for agencies moving forward. Agencies must focus on building a sustainable remote workforce that enables the flexibility, reliability, and agility needed in today’s unpredictable environment.

About the Author

Mike Wiseman is vice president of SLED at Pure Storage.

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