As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease across the country, federal agencies are slowly bringing employees back into the office. However, many employees who have spent several months working in a remote environment may be nervous about returning to the office, even with a hybrid approach, where both the number of people and the amount of time spent in the office is limited. Employees at some agencies have even declared they have “no confidence” in reopening plans to keep employees safe.

Agencies across DoD, Civilian, and Intelligence agencies are tackling their reopening plans differently based on their unique situations. While the Pentagon has moved to a stage where they can have 80% of their workforce back in the office, the Social Security Administration announced they will continue telework for their employees for the foreseeable future.

Whether federal teams are returning to the office full time, continuing to work in a remote environment, or using a hybrid approach, the top priority is to keep employees safe and the business of government running smoothly, all while protecting the nation’s most important technology infrastructure. Agencies need to give employees confidence in their reopening plans and overcome their fears. Here are 5 tips and tools designed to keep employees safe and working effectively when they return to the office.

Thermal Imaging Systems

According to the CDC, fever is one of the top symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. To help employees feel more confident that the office environment is safe and the colleagues they are coming in contact with aren’t spreading the virus, many organizations and other public venues are installing Thermal Imaging Systems, which detect heighted skin temperature, often caused by a fever. These machines can be installed at office entrances, and employees are screened when they enter the building.

While these machines don’t detect the cause of the fever, they can be used as a line of defense in keeping federal offices free of viruses, as people with heightened temperatures would be asked to return to their remote working environment until they no longer have a fever. They also serve to boost the confidence of employees, who know that the people coming into the office are fever-free and more likely to not be sick.

There are privacy issues associated with using the machines. Leadership teams are encouraged to weigh the risks of these privacy issues as part of developing their opening plans.

Collaboration Tools

Employees returning to the office will need to continue social distancing to keep everyone safe, but will still need to collaborate with others that are either in the office as well or working remotely. Modern collaboration tools allow employees sitting in different offices or different states to work as though they are in the same conference room.

Collaboration applications such as Webex Teams and Webex Meetings offered by Cisco allow employees the ability to instant message and participate in group chat sessions regardless of physical location. Webex also offers huddle spaces where interactive meetings can take place using virtual white boards, document sharing, and other features that allow participants to collaborate in real time from anywhere, even the office next door.

Federal agencies also have the added complexity of needing collaboration solutions that adhere to the numerous and ever-evolving federal compliance demands, including modernization requirements. If mission security is a concern for your collaboration tools, Cisco offers a FedRAMP Impact Level 2 (IL2) Webex tool for Civilian agencies along with other secure collaboration solutions. They also have HCS-D solutions designed specifically for Department of Defense agencies that offer DoD Impact Level 5 (IL5) certification. Remote workers using these tools can achieve the highest level of security as they do in the office environment.

Monitor Office Traffic

To support building a safe and trusted workspace for federal employees, many reopening plans include limits on the number of people entering the building to better support social distancing. Contact tracing also needs to be considered if an employee that has come into contact with other team members tests positive for the virus.

Cisco DNA Spaces offers rich insights into what is happening within the office environment to assist in improving the safety and health of employees and customers. The apps in DNA Spaces enable IT and facilities staff to monitor building density to ensure the number of people working in the office is at a safe and acceptable level. Leadership teams can also analyze patterns of time spent in the office and location within the building to better understand employee working behaviors. This tool is also vital for contact tracing, as you can review where employees who test positive have been within the building and who they may have come in contact with, helping to contain the spread of the virus.

Install Safety Tools Throughout the Building

Employees may be feeling overwhelmed with returning to the office after working in a remote environment for several months. Often, little gestures that demonstrate that you care about their health and safety can go a long way in boosting their confidence. Including health and wellness items such as hand sanitizing stations, self-filling water stations, and barriers in conference rooms. These tools support employee wellness and can help stop the spread of coronavirus and other viruses like the flu.

Offer Wellness Resources

The past several months have been really hard on people. The coronavirus completely altered the way we live our lives seemingly overnight. With quarantine and mask requirements, office and business closures, and children distance learning, some people may be feeling overwhelmed and having a hard time coping. As federal agencies build their reopening plans, they should consider tools and policies to help employees who may be struggling. These include flexible work schedules, especially if employees have children at home learning remotely. Some private sector organizations have even built distance learning rooms in their offices to help employees with children return to work.

Through internal communication tools, share support resources with employees. These could include contact information for mental health services, tips on staying active during quarantine, financial services resources if employees are struggling due to current economic factors, and support to help families with childcare and virtual learning needs. Supporting employees now will help with retaining them when we do return to a more “normal” state of working. With over 60% of new federal hires leaving within two years of their hire date, prior to the pandemic, developing tools to retain employees during is more important than ever.

Developing a reopening plan that includes safety and wellness considerations and communicating that plan to employees will support a safe and smooth transition back to the office.

Related Blog Posts

See All Blogs

How Proper Collaboration Tools Make or Break Long-Term Telework Plans for Federal Agencies

Effective collaboration tools can eliminate silos and accelerate missions. But getting to a modern and secure collaboration environment can be a daunting task for federal agencies, especially with today’s mobile workforce. In the year and a half since the onset…

Sirius Federal Helps Maryland Food Bank Fight Hunger Through Virtual Food Drive

Sirius Federal ran a virtual food drive during the month of September to support the Maryland Food Bank in its fight against hunger insecurities.

Sirius Federal Kicks Off America’s VetDogs Partnership

Sirius Federal recently kicked off our partnership with America’s VetDogs, a charity dedicated to providing service and guide dogs for veterans and first responders.

The Role AI Has in Redefining Federal Telehealth Practices

Federal telehealth practices use AI to uncover the best mix of human and machine communication, leading to more productive care and treatment.

White House Encourages Federal Agencies to Modernize Their Data Centers

Government agencies encouraged to modernize in response to cybersecurity threats.

The Need for Exhaustive Data Protection in the Federal Government

SolarWinds breach prompts federal courts to add new security procedures to protect highly sensitive court documents.

Key Ways Converged Infrastructure Can Help Your Agency Conquer Cloud Migration

Learn how converged infrastructure can help your agency ditch the silos and modernize your data center for today’s cloud world.

Federal IT Focus Areas for 2H of 2021

In the aftermath of an unprecedented year riddled with a teleworking surge, election-year tension and—last but certainly not least—a global pandemic affecting every industry and organization in our nation, it’s safe to say that 2021 was welcomed with open arms.…

Using the CDM Program to Keep Federal Networks Secure No Matter Where Employees Work

As federal agencies deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on where and how employees work, federal CIOs that were already facing constraints securing their networks prior to the pandemic now have to contend with network security for the…

Remote, Hybrid, Onsite – Tools To Secure Federal Networks No Matter Where Teams Work

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, federal agencies are beginning to bring employees back into the office. Whether teams are returning to the office full time, continuing to work in a remote environment, or using a hybrid approach, the top priority is…

Sirius Federal Awarded ITES-SW2 Contract

Crofton, MD—September 9, 2020— Sirius Federal, a Sirius company, has been awarded the Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-Software 2 (ITES-SW2) contract. In addition to helping save time on procurement and cutting costs by consolidating their software purchases, the ITES-SW2 contract allows…

Sirius Federal Gives Back to the Community Through Virtual Food Drive

Philanthropy and community outreach have always been an integral part of Sirius Federal’s corporate culture. To support those in need in our communities, Sirius Federal is running a Virtual Food Drive during the month of September to support the Maryland…

Ignore the Workforce at Your IT Modernization Peril

Federal agencies are currently faced with the daunting task of modernizing billions of dollars’ worth of outdated technology. On the path to IT modernization success, the investment in technology represents only half the battle though — agencies also need to…

Sirius Federal Named Public Sector Partner of the Year and Federal Intelligence Partner of the Year at Cisco Partner Summit

This week, Sirius Federal was recognized for our leadership in the public sector by receiving two awards at the Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas, NV. Sirius Federal was named the Americas Geographical Region Public Sector Partner of the Year…

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan that Keeps Pace with Technology

The fear of a disaster in your data center is what nightmares are made of for technology teams. Are the systems backed-up properly? Will we lose data? How much downtime will we incur? Does the team know what to do?…

Protecting your Agency from Phishing

As we spend an increasingly large percentage of our time online, we’ve become aware of the malicious tactics used to trick us into downloading malware or betraying our credentials. Even as our built-in threat detection improves, we risk letting it…

Choosing an IT Solution Provider that Keeps Projects on Track

Most of us have experienced a project that hasn’t gone quite as planned. Information wasn’t received at the right time, different teams had completely different interpretations of the requirements, or somebody didn’t realize they were responsible for a task. Little…

TechTarget: Big Blue Drives Collaboration Among IBM Business Partners

IBM is investing in resources and business processes to make it easier for IBM business partners to create alliances with each other. Following last month's IBM Think conference in San Francisco, Senior Director of Software Practice Charles Fullwood discusses the…

Deployment and Resident Engineers Deliver On-Site Solutions

At Sirius Federal, we provide solutions. From infrastructure management to cloud migration, we create custom answers to federal IT’s most pressing problems. But we believe strong, sustainable solutions involve more than just software and hardware. What agencies often need most…

WBJ: Here’s What it Takes for a Mid-Tier Maryland Contractor to Compete in Evolving Federal IT Marketplace

More than three-fourths of federal government agencies — about 77 percent, according to a Government Accountability Office report — will not meet their planned technology modernization goals by the end of the year. Our CEO, Mike Greaney, recently sat down…

The Rally Call for Digital Transformation Is Here: Are You Ready for the Journey?

Today, digital transformation has become the rallying cry for government organizations aiming to innovate and improve operations. The promise of digital transformation is profound: faster and more informed decision-making, improved customer insights, greater cost savings, more reliable products and services,…

3 Tactics to Avoid Insider Threats Posed by Third-Party Contractors

"The balance between too much security and too little is delicate. Overzealous access policies can bring efficiency and productivity to a screeching halt. But an overly lax approach can expose sensitive data to people who don’t need it and shouldn’t…

Improving Insider Threat Detection with Security Integration

With cyber-attacks like Nyetya and WannaCry dominating headlines over the last several months, you’d think malware would top the list of security pro’s biggest concerns. But you’d be wrong, according to the SANS Institute’s 2017 annual data security survey. While…

Unstructured Data: The Threat You Cannot See

In this article for Dark Reading, Sirius Federal software practice director Charles Fullwood examines why security teams needs to take a cognitive approach to the increasing volumes of data flowing from sources they don't control. Every day, IT security teams…

Expect security, cloud spending in 2018 Federal IT Budget

In recent interviews with TechTarget, industry leaders--including Sirius Federal's Greg Kushto--cited an uptick in federal IT procurement activity during the government's fiscal fourth quarter and expected FY 2018 to feature security and cloud investments. IT solution providers planning to pursue…

NextGov: How to Unleash Federal IT Workers as Changemakers

Written by Sirius Federal's vice president of client solutions Jason Parry, this article was originally published at www.NextGov.com. The public-sector workforce has always been plagued by stereotypes. To the layman, “government job” calls to mind images of a middle-aged bureaucrat,…

SearchITChannel: New tech, old virtues keep server virtualization going

"Server virtualization is well past the peak of the technology adoption curve, but SMB customers, open source technology and hybrid clouds keep demand going." —John Moore, SearchITChannel Server virtualization platforms have been around for ages and would seem to be old…

FedTech: How to Make the Most of the Federal Hiring Freeze

Although the freeze may constrain resources, it is also an opportunity to conduct an IT inventory, invest in training and prioritize projects. In this article for FedTech, writer Phil Goldstein addresses how federal agencies are handling the recently announced federal…

3 Opportunities for IT Teams Dealing With Federal Hiring Freeze

With a federal hiring freeze ordered across the board for federal agencies, government organizations find themselves rethinking operations—including IT. It’s a tough reality for federal IT teams, with civilian agencies seeing the deepest impact. The order heavily affects IT professionals,…

DevOps: An Evolving Approach for Evolving IT Teams

By promoting collaboration and better communication, DevOps practices can help IT teams raise their profile and generate better outcomes for their organization. And here's how: Imagine you’re an architect tasked with designing a massive mixed-used building in Washington D.C. It’s…