2020 Government Innovation Awards
Connect2LACity changes a city’s attitudes about working from home
- By Suzette Lohmeyer
- Nov 16, 2020
When COVID-19 hit, the City of Los Angeles knew it had to move quickly to get its 24,000 employees across 42 departments safely working from home -- and to ensure Angelenos could access the services they needed during a pandemic. Unfortunately, legacy access system had the bandwidth to support only 200 employees working remotely at any given time, said Ted Ross, the city’s general manager and CIO.
Ross quickly assembled a “tiger team” with expertise in apps, infrastructure and security to come up with a plan. Their solution: Connect2LACity – a system that gives employees remote access to the city’s internal apps and websites through any device (including personal computers, phones and tablets). “They could even … securely access the workspace they were used to in the office (same desktop, shortcuts, etc.),” said Ross -- an extra step intended to “minimize the learning curve of a new environment.”
Security was not surprisingly one of the biggest priorities going into developing a remote access system. The team created Connect2LACity to be zero-trust. Encrypted connections also allowed employees to keep the systems and data secure while they work remotely, Ross said.
The transition was quick, he said. It took 11 days from the time the team first met to do a pilot test. A few weeks later, 18,000 city employees had access, with very few hiccups along the way “While the help desk did receive a significant increase in tickets … most requests were for user training and not problem reports or platform issues,” Ross said.
Rapidly enabling city employees to work remotely was critical during the pandemic to get public safety messages out and enable COVID-19 contact tracing. It also allowed the city to ensure residents were getting needed rental assistance, testing, and information about other support services.
And while the public health pressures to avoid crowded offices will eventually fade, Ross said the Connect2LACity system has completely shifted the city’s culture and attitudes on working from home: “Thinking long-term, the City of LA predicts the new environment and associated workplace flexibility will improve employee quality of life and quality of work - reducing commuting costs and time and supporting a healthy work-life balance. And, the City of LA sees the potential long-term environmental benefits as employees telework more and reduce their carbon footprint.”
Suzette Lohmeyer is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.