I recently talked with e.Republic’s Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Haisler and Vice President of Research Joe Morris on their weekly ICYMI video session.
Obviously, we talked a little about my “Distributed Teams” book, but most of the time we discussed the new mainstream reality of Distributed Teams in Government, including the work we’re doing on DistributedGov.
The trend from office to “work-from-anywhere” has been accelerating in private industry in recent years because of many factors – including generational changes, cultural changes and the competitive advantage of hiring people who live beyond commute range of your physical office building.
Then COVID-19 forced the issue.
While government has supported “telework” for decades, the default for government employees in most agencies was still to work in a government office. With COVID-19, government agencies found themselves suddenly and quickly needing to shift entire agencies to telework. This means transitioning *lots* of people. In a hurry. Some agencies I talked with only had same-day notice to transition literally thousands of people. Each with lots of agency specific issues around security, network bottleneck, server load, data privacy and human training to work through. While massive transitions like this obviously hit bumps, their ability to roll-with-the-punches, improvise-where-needed and quickly get reliable, security solutions in place was impressive.
Now, a couple of months later, most of the surprise gotchas have been figured out, or worked around. There’s still lots to be correctly stressed about but work life has settled into a new rhythm. A strange, different rhythm, but still – a rhythm. In this rhythm, work is still being done, and all the long-term benefits – for hiring, retention, workforce diversity and disaster planning – are becoming very apparent to government agency leadership.
With this context, discussions about returning to the office are now being balanced with discussions like “when will COVID-19 be contained enough to safely return to offices?”, “how do people safely get to/from the office?” and “what do we have to physically change to make the office workplace safe?”. The many complicated practical steps needed to make offices safe are still being figured out and worked on. Meanwhile, another question is becoming harder to ignore: “We’ve shown we can work from home for months now – so why do we even need to go back to the office?”
Dustin, Joe and I had a great, lively, wide-ranging discussion across all of these topics – and yes, we even got to talk about time machines! Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think.
ps: This was my first time doing an interview that was live streamed onto linkedin.com, and all the mechanics/logistics went quite smoothly! Nice work, Dustin and Joe!