California’s new Telework policy: A big step for the Future of Work

Exciting news! The State of California just publicly released their new telework policy which is strategically important in tackling the hard problems of workforce hiring/diversity/retention, climate change, disaster planning and distributed economic development. This is the first major update to the telework policy in 10 years, and I’m delighted to have been one-of-many who helped make this happen.

Here’s a detailed interview I did which went live yesterday as the headline on

In summary, the four biggest highlights are:

  • Diversity: Long-term wide-spread telework helps remove the barrier of the commute, which helps with many workforce diversity, equity, hiring and retention issues. This new policy signals a mindset shift from “emergency-telework-at-scale-because-of-COVID-19” to “long-term wide-spread telework as part of normal business going forward”.
  • Climate: Instead of manually-written-annual reports, this emphasizes the use of an automated dashboard with live data. Being able to see the reductions in commuter traffic emissions based on live week-by-week data is inspiring. You can view the live dashboard here. As far as I know, this is the first live dashboard publicly measuring how *organizational leaders* can help reduce the commuter emissions of their own staff.
  • Long-term Disaster Planning / Continuity of Operations: Did you know the State of California was running its first large-scale telework pilot experiment in 1989-1990, when the 1989 earthquake hit? That large scale real-life experiment measurably confirmed how valuable “telework” was for resilience of government operations and the State of California has supported telework ever since. However, even earthquakes and wildfires usually only close offices for a month-or-two. As far as I know, the last ~19 months has been the longest period of office closures and restricted access in the history of the state. The difference between short-term disaster planning (which is common) and long-term disaster planning (which was all-too-rare) is important. People need government services to keep working, even when a government employee/contractor cannot enter a government building. This new policy shifts default assumptions, clarifies equipment policies, digital signature policies and many many other tactical details to help ensure long-term continuity of operations.
  • Scale: The State of California directly employs ~239,000 people, plus additional contractors, so this policy touches a *lot* of people across California. These people work on a (very!) wide range of roles across all parts of state government, so there are a lot of complex edge cases to account for. At this scale, this policy also helps with distributed economic development across California.

You can read the full text of California’s new policy here, along with guidance, training materials, and the live telework dashboard.

Thank you to AndrewAnnGaryStuart and the many other people who worked on making this a reality. As we emerge from this pandemic, this policy is an important and practical step towards creating this new future of work.