Nearly two years after the Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law, agencies increasingly are looking to expand mobility options to make their workforces more nimble, flexible and productive. At the same time, part of this expansion means agencies increasingly are focusing on security issues, one expert said Thursday.
Cindy Auten, general manager for Telework Exchange, told Wired Workplace that one of the key themes of last week’s Telework Town Hall meeting was not only on expanding federal employees’ use of mobile devices but on ensuring those devices are secure.
“The focus was on how can government agencies can leverage employees’ devices but clearly make them secure where the data resides purely on the government side, perhaps by setting up a wall on these devices,” Auten said.
Town hall participants also addressed how the move to mobility has helped agencies integrate their systems and more efficiently manage their infrastructure and employees, Auten said. “Mobility is helping agencies consolidate equipment and devices and streamline enterprise infrastructures,” she said. “It’s about taking inventory of what they have and finding ways to be more efficient, and it goes beyond simply changing their desktops to laptops.”
Meanwhile, many more agencies are drawing praise for top-notch telework programs, Auten said. The Transportation Department, for example, now has more than 20,000 employees who are eligible to telework, and more than 15,000 of those employees have actually signed agreements, she said. In addition, surveys of those employees have shown a dramatic increase in telework satisfaction, from 20 percent in 2008 to 74 percent satisfaction in 2012, Auten said.
On the workforce side, town hall speakers and attendees emphasized how telework is driving performance management changes, particularly as it is forcing managers to measure employees based on their work output, Auten said. Agencies also are looking at ways they can simplify the process of implementing telework, such as creating clearer telework agreements, and how they can establish training programs and evaluate those programs as telework grows, she added.
Expanding the use of video conferencing to reduce travel expenses and increase productivity also is an emerging trend, Auten said, particularly in light of recent conference spending scandals and as agencies look to cut costs. “Agencies are looking at ways to be efficient and productive,” Auten said. “And why travel when you can do video conferencing at a pretty cheap price point?”
Of course, gaining support from managers who may be on the fence about telework is still a hot topic, but Auten emphasized that technology and mobility are key pieces to securing that buy-in from managers. “I think the conversation has evolved to where it’s not just about laptops anymore,” she said. “And that’s great because the technology will support the management buy-in. If you can get the technology that will really foster that collaborative environment, management will come on board a lot quicker.”