January 11, 2022

Transitioning from office to remote work

remote work benefits and challenges

Cubicle “graveyards” and empty office buildings are becoming more commonplace. As more employees make the move to remote work from a home office and leave the cubicle walls behind, corporations and agencies are making it an encouraged option rather than the exception. Some offices are finding that a hybrid work environment is a good option too, where employees are physically in the office at times while working remotely as well.

History of Teleworking

Working from home is not a new concept. The term “telework” has been around since the 1970s as an alternative for federal employees. The first legislation to expand the telework initiatives for federal employees via the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 was key for the government’s ability to manage its workforce through programs for federal agencies. A provision of the Act requires each agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees are authorized to work from home. The Act also encourages agencies to implement telework to the maximum extent possible, as a workplace flexibility that helps maintain continuity of operations and reduce management costs while also improving Federal employees’ ability to manage their work and life commitments, according to a White Paper published on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)’s website.

Future of Teleworking

In a working paper by WFH Research, through the National Bureau of Economic Research, the researchers concluded that in a post-pandemic economy, American workers will supply about 20 percent of full workdays from home. Side effects of this shift include an estimated 4.6 percent increase in productivity, while consumer spending due to less spending on food, shopping, and entertainment in the areas in which workers previously commuted could see a 5 to 10 percent decrease. These transitions have effects that reach beyond corporate or agency walls.

Challenges and Rewards of Teleworking

We interviewed two government agency employees to ask what they found (both challenging and rewarding), as well as their experiences in making the transition. They also have some tips for those considering making this change or looking to make a remote work situation more productive.

Virginia Dept. of Criminal Justice Services, Paul Akong:

At the Virginia Dept. of Criminal Justice Services, Paul Akong has been working remotely for over a decade. Making sure to unplug at the end of your work day is key to maintaining a good work/life balance; and while he sees more hours, he also enjoys not having the commute into the office. Duplicating the work environment between the workplace and home office is also helpful.

Chief Technology Officer for Arizona Medical Board, Pushpa Gregory:

Chief Technology Officer Pushpa Gregory, has a direct connection with not only working from home herself but in ensuring that others in the agency have the tools they need to do so. This involves new hardware, software, communication tools and more stringent security/remote work policies. She finds that a fixed work schedule for each team member ensures better collaboration within the agency. To keep the social aspect of the work environment, the agency conducts regular team meetings as well as a hybrid environment where team members are in the office one or two days a week. While it is more difficult to get to know team members she has never met, there is more “energy” with in-office collaboration. Those office potlucks are also missed in the remote work environment!

Telework Resources

Over two years into a pandemic, the OPM issued an update recently to its Telework Guide. The Guide titled “2021 Guide to Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government: Leveraging Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government to Better Meet Our Human Capital Needs and Improve Mission Delivery” outlines telework policy, management of personnel, security, as well as the use of a government telework central website https://www.telework.gov/.

Entering into a world where remote work seems to be more commonplace, it is always good to do some research first. At the end of the day when we “unplug,” having had a great day at work is integral to also having enjoyable time in our home life.

These interviews do not constitute an endorsement.

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