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 of COVID, we’ve seen a significant shift in remote work norms in both the private and public sectors. Short-term, emergency telework policies soon started becoming more permanent due to several factors, the first and most obvious being COVID’s prevalence—it’s still a very real and present caution in our society well into 2021. Secondly, private companies and public sector agencies alike are taking an honest notice of their workforces’ proving to be more than capable of performing their roles remotely.

Business kept going, even when traditional office doors closed and we all stayed home. And that’s causing employees to ask the question: why do I need to come into the office after almost two years of proving I’m capable of working productively at home? While it’s not a simple answer for agencies, it is a fair question—and one that’s causing quite a stir in the federal space.

From slow adopters pre-COVID, to swift integrators of telework 

The federal government isn’t historically known for swift change or drastic transformation. Federal employees have been teleworking since the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act about a decade ago. But pre-COVID, those telework policies were sparse and in perpetual “development phase.” One could safely assume the federal government did not have a true culture of remote work flexibility until now.

In many ways, COVID has prompted the government to more actively assess its telework policy and implement virtual workforce changes that might not have happened for years without the pandemic’s not-so-subtle push.

Now’s not the time to let up

So, what does this new age of a digital workforce mean for federal agencies and their IT controls?

Though COVID and teleworking continue to be our new normal, that doesn’t mean agencies’ IT departments can relax. On the contrary, the longer that telework and virtual methods are in place, the more agencies need to pay attention to and maximize their collaboration cybersecurity measures. As federal workforces continue to stay remote for the long haul, adversaries and cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and finding more effective ways to target and attack those geographically scattered endpoints. A virtual employee base expands and scatters an agency’s end-user vulnerabilities. Gone are the days when entire departments were permanently stationed within the same four walls and more easily managed in regard to devices, connectivity, security and endpoints for network access.

Collaboration tools keep virtual workforces connected

A crucial component of creating a long-term telework plan is to validate your agency’s collaboration tools. Remote employees scattered across the country must still be connected to the office, coworkers and software, as though they were still there in person. Modern collaboration tools allow remote employees to do just that.

Collaboration platforms such as Cisco Webex give 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 in the world.

The need to connect with large audiences across organizations has also never been more important. Traditional in-person “town hall” style meetings are becoming a thing of the past, due to both travel costs and employee safety. Webex offers customizable events, webinars and webcasts that can be scaled to host up to 100,000 virtual participants.

It’s common for agencies to have multiple collaboration tools from different vendors, sometimes overlapping in functionality. This can lead to poor user experience, technology not being adopted adequately, and security concerns from lack of centralized control. A critical step in telework modernization is to inventory existing collaboration systems and endpoints to ensure full interoperability and protect existing investments.

Federal agencies also have the added complexity of needing collaboration solutions that adhere to numerous and ever-evolving compliance demands, including modernization requirements. Legacy infrastructure systems are not conducive to a modern, cloud-based teleworking environment. If mission security is a concern for your collaboration tools, Cisco offers a FedRAMP Impact Level 2 (IL2) Webex tool for civilian agencies. They also have Webex for Defense solutions designed specifically for Department of Defense agencies that offer DoD Impact Level 5 (IL5) certification. Using these tools, remote teams can operate under the highest level of security just as they do in the office environment.

Get expert help when and where you need it

If you need to modernize your collaboration tools to provide enhanced telework support, Sirius Federal can evaluate your current environment and offer solutions that support your mission. Learn more about our Collaboration Solutions and how we can help you improve employee morale, recruit top talent and keep the talent you have with a robust teleworking program supported by the industry’s most powerful, secure collaboration tools.

About the Author: Joe Lazzaro
Joe Lazzaro, Collaboration Practice Manager at Sirius Federal
Email: [email protected]

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