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4 Questions Federal Government Agencies Should Consider as Employees Return to Work

Working from home

At the Biden-Harris administration’s urging, federal government employees are now being called back to the office. Yet we’ve all seen that remote work is viable. Operations didn’t come to a screeching halt when shutdowns occurred. People across the country and around the world learned how to use new tools, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to be productive and work differently. As a result, while there is an edict to return, it’s not hard to imagine federal employees asking: Do I have to go back to the office full time?

Depending on the agency, department or the employee’s role, the answer may be “no.”

Yet with remote or hybrid arrangements come significant implications for the network. If the internet connection at someone’s home is down, that essentially means this new “government office” is offline. Here are some useful questions for Federal Government agencies to consider as they tackle these issues:

  1. How many sites will the network now have? Typically, the home office has never factored into calculations for the size of the network. For a variety of reasons, including security, bandwidth, policies and performance, agencies may need to rethink which sites constitute their network.
  2. How will the agency deliver enterprise-grade performance to remote workers? The need for bandwidth continues to climb, with no signs of diminishing. Employees need ample bandwidth for the foreseeable future no matter where they work. Unfortunately, there is currently no consumer broadband service available in residential areas that has been designed from the ground up specifically for enterprise customers. Consumer plans often have data quotas or caps and are insufficient for bandwidth intensive applications. Agencies must therefore address how to meet the insatiable need for big pipes wherever employees are.
  3. How will the agency secure its connections? In the past, the answer to securing remote connections was to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), operating over the same service as the rest of the household. Long term, however, the government may need to invest in secure, high-speed services for remote workers that are separate and distinct from their home network solutions. This approach may also resolve common performance challenges associated with VPN (such as sluggish connectivity due to extra routing “hops”).
  4. How will the agency provide IT support to remote workers? While we were all forced to rely on consumer grade broadband service during the pandemic, it is not a sustainable permanent solution because issues are inevitable. If --or when -- services or hardware fail, will the agency expect workers to call their local provider to troubleshoot? Will employees be obliged to wait several days or weeks for a new modem to arrive, or for an on-site technician visit? What happens when it comes to Service Level Agreements? If the assumption is that remote employees are entitled to the same network performance and user experience as their in-office peers, then agencies must decide how to extend IT support, services and SLAs to those who are working at home.

All of this is to say a hybrid work environment demands a hybrid managed network solution that’s responsive to a dynamic environment. Managed Network Services Providers (MNSP), like Hughes, will need to assess whether to extend their managed service offerings to residential environments or if product and technology innovations are required for this revamped enterprise network structure. With re-entry plans already underway, the time is now for government customers and service providers alike to envision how best to deliver secure, managed enterprise network services to the employees who work from home. Not only may we never go back to operating in the same ways we did before, we also need to prepare for the unpredictability of what may come.