Dec 29 2020

Government Hiring and Office Space May Be In for a Reassessment

As sustained telework continues among government agencies, officials can capitalize on a distributed workforce.

During a meeting of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Georgia CIO Calvin Rhodes reflected on the expansion of telework during the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting state agencies must expand their talent pools by hiring outside their geographic areas.

In Atlanta, government agencies face stiff competition for qualified tech workers. As more agencies embrace remote work as a strategy to enable social distancing, however, more opportunities open to hire qualified candidates who may live in rural parts of Georgia.

NASCIO has continually surveyed government tech officials about remote work practices in their states. Before the pandemic, 52 percent of survey respondents said less than 5 percent of staff worked remotely. During the pandemic, 35 states enabled more than half of employees to work remotely. Nine states saw more than 90 percent of their workforces switch to remote setups.

States embraced this swift change in operations as a means to maintain public health. However, like Rhodes, officials can capitalize on the increased telework capacity to meet hiring and budget demands.

Remote Work May Help with Recruitment 

State and local officials suspect many agencies may retain significant remote workforces once the coronavirus crisis has passed. In the 2020 Deloitte-NASCIO Cybersecurity Study, the authors suggest remote workforces could open the door for states to hire gig workers or workers with special skills as needed, providing agencies and employees with even greater flexibility.

In Missouri, CIO Jeff Wann reports that agencies can now reach further across the state to hire qualified candidates, looking for talent in cities like St. Louis and Kansas City instead of simply within Jefferson City, the state capital.

Rhodes says he has seen nearly full employment in technology fields across Atlanta and hopes more expertise may be waiting in the rural areas of Georgia. Perhaps some qualified tech experts seek quiet country living but are no less knowledgeable and engaged than their urban peers. The state would like to leverage the new remote work landscape to find such employees.

MORE FROM STATETECH: See how automation helps governments do more with less.

Agencies Might Save on Office Space

According to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, state agencies are more likely than local to offer remote work.

Local governments provide more direct services to citizens of their jurisdictions, requiring direct interaction in matters related to public safety, parks and recreation, infrastructure maintenance, and tax collection. By contrast, states administer benefits programs and manage regulations — functions that are easier to do from a distance.

This reality provides state governments with opportunities to glean budget savings by reducing their physical footprints. In Kansas, roughly 75 percent of state employees shifted to telework during the pandemic. Though many may return to offices, officials may reconsider the amount of office space they truly require.

Agencies spending less money on physical buildings can prioritize other budget items or may find savings if facing financial shortfalls due to decreases in tax revenue.

EXPLORE: What will remote work in government look like over the long term? 

Internal Resources May Help with Cybersecurity 

In 2018, Deloitte and NASCIO proposed bold plays to obtain cybersecurity breakthroughs. One of these plays was expanding the talent pool by leveraging public-private partnerships and building on relationships with local colleges and universities.

The organizations revisited the idea in 2020 and found more states now outsourced cybersecurity functions. For example, 60 percent of states now outsource cyberthreat assessments, compared with 43 percent in 2018. But government confidence in third parties has diminished in the meantime, with 81 percent of states only somewhat or not very confident in third parties’ cybersecurity practices.

Officials may find that an internal remote workforce provides the magic mix that allays these fears. Agencies can ensure the endpoint security of their networks and they can roll out uniform onboarding and training processes to all employees, regardless of location.

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