Ask people for their thoughts on hybrid work, and even its staunchest advocates usually offer caveats: It requires certain technology, a new management style, thoughtful culture-building and other reimaginings.
But as David Smith with Citrix points out, hybrid work is the future, and it’s an important recruitment and retention tool as government agencies struggle to find talent. These days, he said, “There doesn’t need to be a difference between being on site, in the four walls of a government building, versus being remote” — as long as appropriate management and technology is in place.
Below are Smith’s thoughts on how to establish an effective hybrid workforce.
Tools. Giving employees the tools for hybrid work goes beyond laptop cameras. Smith said agencies need to think about delivering services in a way that allows employees to access information from anywhere over any network. And that involves newer technology areas, he said, such as zero trust network access (ZTNA) and desktop as a service (DaaS).
Smith explained that Citrix keeps an agency’s applications and data secure while improving employee experience and gives IT departments needed visibility into security and performance. “The context of a remote user is important in determining the type of access they should have,” he said.
Someone on a government-furnished piece of equipment, for example, might be allowed to do more than someone who’s not. “It’s not all or nothing. It’s not a light switch, it’s a dimmer,” he offered.
Culture. One of the biggest challenges is abandoning the comfortable notion of seeing employees at their desks from 9:00 to 5:00. Smith said managers need to focus more on objectives and outcomes. But even that may not be enough.
“Organizational culture is important in allowing for hybrid work, and if leadership doesn’t drive this culture, it is difficult to make the shift,” he said.
Legacy systems and policies hamper the transition.
“Agencies have to say, ‘Hey, is there a better way to do this?’” Smith said. Changing the way services are delivered can improve the way government employees work and can benefit the citizen as well.
In-person learning. Despite all the benefits of remote work, Smith believes virtual training is less effective than in-person sessions.
“When I participate in a training session,” he said, “sometimes it’s the informal interaction during a break or after a session that is the most valuable part of the session.”
And while it’s true that people may hesitate to ask questions at a large in-person event, video meetings are no better, Smith believes, because people often feel isolated and self-conscious typing questions into a Q&A box.
Why is in-person better? According to Smith, “Sometimes it’s just leaning over and whispering to the person next to you, ‘Do you understand what this means?’ and the person says, ‘No, I don’t understand either.’” And then together, as a pair, the two colleagues can seek answers.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “Solving Your Hybrid Workforce Problems.”