Tips for Thinking About Long-Term Telework

If you could time travel to before the pandemic, what would you tell yourself then that you know now?

At GovLoop’s virtual summit Thursday, the closing keynote speaker Britni Saunders, State Personnel Director for the state of Indiana, said she probably would have told herself to be prepared for the pandemic’s impacts to last the next couple of years.

“We’re planning long term, not temporary. We have come to grips with the fact that things will not be the same, and we need to move forward with that mentality,” Saunders said.

Many government employees have suddenly started teleworking as an emergency measure. But agencies are also thinking about how these emergency measures have to be adjusted for the everyday.

“Employees deserve to know what new work environment rules, policies, expectations and norms look like. Because we’re not going to be out of this in a couple months. We’re not going to be out of this in six months. We need to be preparing ourselves to manage this long term,” Saunders said.

In thinking about what government has learned so far, Saunders shared some lessons learned that can help agencies prepare for the long-term work environment, boldly and kindly.

What have we learned so far?

Remote work works, but you have to provide support. Some might love it; others might hate it. Some might need more support to work remotely. Everyone who will be working remotely for the foreseeable future needs to have additional structure and support from normal times.

“Even though we had to flip that switch [to telework] quickly, it’s important that we go back and provide the structure and training, for the manager and employee who will be in those remote work situations,” Saunders said.

Performance management will always be important. “You can be a bad employee at a cubicle just as much you can be a bad employee at your desk at home,” Saunders said. At the same time, good performers in the office are just as good working remotely as well. Performance management not only keeps performance quality in check but highlights positive conduct as well.

Tech is our new BFF. Agencies are relying on tech now more than ever, which means there are so many more opportunities to leverage new capabilities and get buy-in from staff and leadership as people work remotely. It also raises important questions around cybersecurity and IT problem-solving that agencies need to emphasize.

Be kind to one another. Practice common sense. Maintain a sense of humor. “These seem so basic, but they could not have been more important during this entire crisis,” Saunders said.

The number of historic crises both global and domestic, economic and social, means there are a lot of reasons why people might not be “100% on their game every day,” Saunders noted. It’s important to practice that kind of common sense and also maintain a sense of humor.

“There is a relief in being able to say, ‘2020 is bananas,’” Saunders said.

Don’t miss out on other virtual learning opportunities. Pre-register for GovLoop’s remaining 2020 virtual summits today.

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