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The Impact of “Work from Anywhere” Expectations on Government Networks

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Government agencies have offices all over the country, with some used to support administrative operations and others to serve the public, such as VA clinics or Division of Motor Vehicle sites. A significant number of these locations have been closed over the last year and a half—yet governmental services and operations have continued.

“The question now is: ‘What are the network implications for government agencies thrust into a new operational model since the pandemic?’” Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for Government Solutions at Hughes, explained.

“When Covid hit, we all retreated to our homes and used our home Internet service to have Teams meetings and Zoom calls. Government employees used their VPN connections to dial in securely. But if they had spotty, slow or even no service, they had to become their own IT support person to solve the problem. If they needed new equipment, like a router, for instance, they had to wait until someone could mail it, which could take several days. Where is the productivity in that?” he said. “Consider agencies with 200 offices and 10,000 employees. Now they have 10,000 additional sites to support.”

As federal, state and local government restrictions begin to ease, more and more workers are returning to the office – but not exclusively. “We’re seeing a hybrid work environment emerge, where employees go into the office for two to three days and work remotely at other times. Conceptually, these government networks need to be extended to employee homes with managed services that are reliable, secure, and contractually bound by performance standards,” Mr. Bardo said.

Many factors should be considered, including energy costs, productivity goals, capabilities, requirements, budgets, agency size and structure, constituent needs, and more. A workforce that is used to working from home is not likely to want to return to the office—at least not full-time. This may be especially true for younger professionals who will look for a more flexible work environment.

“They won’t necessarily sign up for commuting, getting on the bus or subway, or paying for parking,” Mr. Bardo said. “Expecting to do business in the same way, using the same tools and networking capabilities will not be cost-effective or productive, and it won’t be a strong draw for top talent.”

Instead, there is an opportunity for agencies to acknowledge this new dynamic and proactively seek to transform their networks. Each agency will require unique strategies, such as renegotiating leases or subletting space to reduce their footprint or identifying prime contracting partners that can get connectivity and capabilities to individual homes, no matter where employees may live.

“This will not happen overnight; it’s not one single person making this decision; and it will not be easy. It will take great minds with a longer vision because it may take several years to implement. But even after we eradicate Covid, we won’t go back to how we once worked, or when we worked, or where we worked. Government agencies have an opportunity to attract and retain employees and give them tools to work securely from home—even if they want to, or need to, work some number of days in the office,” Mr. Bardo said.