Challenges and opportunities of a modern distributed workforce
January 24, 202212:00 pm
4 min read
This content is provided by Interstate Moving | Relocation | Logistics.
While the current surge in Omicron coronavirus cases has yet to result in the issuance of any new guidance on reentry to federal agencies, most agency heads are delaying the return to agency worksites and duty locations until they can provide employees and contractors with a safe return to the workplace.
In the meantime, agency heads are exercising a fair amount of flexibility in setting their own parameters for telework based on the needs of their employees, operational and staffing requirements for delivering mission-critical services in these challenging times and, of course, current and evolving CDC recommendations.
The confluence of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant, headline-grabbing winter storms across the U.S. and the General Services Agency (GSA) Workplace 2030 vision is accelerating the trend toward teleworking and a future of federal work that is likely to include a modern distributed workforce larger than any we’ve seen. While the future we envision will provide employees with the opportunity to work from anywhere, it comes with several location-related challenges to federal agencies, contractors and their employees.
Among these challenges are the following:
Maintaining the security of Government property, information and information systems
Understanding and addressing tax and legal implications
Facilitating relocations for remote work
Security of Government Property, Information and Information Systems
For federal employees and contractors who work within the U.S. Intelligence Community, especially those who work with classified information on matters of national security, full-time remote work is rarely an option. Tasks that need to be completed in a sensitive compartmented information facility or SCIF, as an example, cannot be performed safely and securely in a work-from-home setting.
What’s needed, then, is a hybrid work policy that balances the unique needs of the agency’s mission with those of its federal employees and contractors. It’s important to remember that remote work does not change the obligation federal agency employees and contractors have in maintaining the security of Federal Government property, information and information systems. A good remote work policy should include security measures and protocols for keeping Government property and information safe, secure and separate from personal property and information. And, because classified information may not be taken to or accessed from remote or telework sites, the policy should include a hybrid work provision that allows classified work to be completed at the agency employee’s or contractor’s official worksite or duty station on a regular or as needed basis.
Tax and Legal Implications
One of the guiding principles of the GSA Workplace 2030 vision is the opportunity that remote work presents in helping federal agencies to recruit and retain the best talent. It does this by geographically expanding their talent pool and by giving federal agency employees the ability to work from anywhere. Remote and hybrid work options have become the new normal, and growing numbers of federal agency employees are opting for a change of pace in terms of where they live, and are willing to accept a longer commute on those days when they are reporting to their assigned duty locations.
One of the challenges arising from this modern distributed workforce involves tax and legal implications, as the law of the state where the employee performs the work typically governs the employment relationship. Employment laws vary be state and, in some instances, may even contradict one another. A well-written remote or hybrid work policy should, at a minimum, require remote employees to complete a written telework agreement that includes the employee’s telework location and schedule for reporting to an agency-approved worksite. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s 2021 Guide to Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government contains updated guidance for assisting federal agencies with updates to this and other telework policies.
Relocations for Remote Work
While employee desire for relocating may vary, factors like proximity to extended family and friends, access to better schools, participation in sport and leisure activities endemic to a particular geography or the opportunity to live in a lower cost area may be enough to entice remote workers and their families to consider a domestic or international relocation.
Relocating for any job, even a remote one, can be a stressful experience – both for the employee and those charged with deploying talent where it’s needed most in the delivery of mission-critical services. An experienced relocation services provider can help your agency create and manage a global mobility program that complies with applicable regulations, like the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) and Joint Travel Regulations (JTR). Most importantly, it can help your agency manage costs in compliance with contract procurement requirements, all while customizing the relocation services needed to satisfy your employee’s job reporting timeline, household and family needs.
The federal workplace as we know it is changing, and the confluence of events we noted earlier is creating a future that will depend increasingly on a modern distributed workforce to reliably deliver on mission-critical services.