By Charlie Meyer, Qless
While it’s certainly too soon to declare anything about the world being “post-COVID,” it’s abundantly clear that the world as we know it has permanently changed over the past 18-plus months of dealing with this airborne pandemic.
These changes are most obvious in the way we work and interact with one another — the era of remote work and video conferencing has emerged in full bloom. Along with it comes a new level of consumer convenience as businesses and government offices were forced to implement socially distant solutions for previously in-person interactions.
The public realized that things are generally more convenient when they don’t require you to get off the couch. Just because social distancing restrictions have been lifted, that doesn’t mean anyone is really itching to get back to doing these things in person again.
For government offices, this means that essentially an “office of the future” is starting to take shape — one that requires rethinking how government services are delivered through technology and innovation. Just like Facebook and other social media platforms brought about “Web 2.0” nearly two decades ago, here’s what “Government 2.0” may look like.
1. Increased virtual presence
A lot of industries are now looking at going 100% virtual, and many of the private-sector businesses that shifted to remote workforces during the heydays of the pandemic have since announced the change to be permanent.
Government offices should follow suit, allowing as many employees as possible to work remotely and allowing constituents to conduct business online instead of in person. This will require answering three questions about each role in your office:
- Can this task be done remotely?
- What technology do we need to facilitate that?
- What policies need to change to make that happen?
This can mean taking a remote-first approach to work and possibly reducing your physical office space or doing away with it altogether. It can also mean adopting a hybrid/flexible schedule that allows employees to work where they’re most comfortable, whether that’s home or in the office. And it will almost certainly mean investing in tools like video conferencing technology and project management software to make a remote work environment operate seamlessly.
But going remote won’t just make your customers happier (since they won’t have to travel to a physical office), it’ll help you attract and retain the best talent for your staff as well. Only a certain percentage of people will ever go back to work in an in-person environment, and if your office allows for remote work it will make you more competitive on the job market.
2. Continue digital transformation
Of course, not everything can be done online. The DMV needs in-person interactions like testing and license photos, for example. In these cases, there should still be as many accommodations made as possible to ensure the comfort and convenience of the customer.
Using smart scheduling software to cut down on in-person wait times, allowing parts of the in-person process to be completed online ahead of time, or introducing digital self-service kiosks can all help make an “office of the future” friendlier to its customers and more respectful of their time.
On the flip side, every self-service feature like this helps free up your staff members to take on other, more important duties at the office.
3. Improve accessibility and equality
Some of the biggest hurdles in this ongoing shift to a more online world are ensuring accessibility and equality, including getting quality internet connections to more people. While it’s certainly not going to be up to your office to physically connect more people to the internet (unless you’re actually one of the government workers installing broadband connections as a public service) there are still policy changes and other actions you and your office can champion in the name of improving accessibility and equality.
For example, giving licenses and other certifications longer intervals between renewal dates will avoid forcing people to come back into a physical location they don’t need to be in. There are currently examples of this shift happening in states like Arizona, where license photos only need to be updated every 12 years. Longer renewal intervals also benefit virtual appointments, as it gives more time for the information infrastructure to build up between appointments.
The continuing shift to a virtual-first lifestyle is in full stride, and government offices need to be ready for it. There’s a clear picture of what the Government 2.0 “office of the future” will look like, with fewer in-person appointments, more online presence, and improved accessibility, among other features. Now it’s just a matter of getting there.
Charlie Meyer is the Senior VP of Sales and leads the North American sales team at Qless. With more than 20 years of sales leadership experience in enterprise and SaaS software, Charlie brings a wealth of professional guidance to the growing company and market.