Across the board, Federal agencies have made a massive shift to telework in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, agencies are beginning to look at how to safely bring employees back to worksites. While the Department of Defense (DoD) is taking a slow, phased approach, leadership is grappling with whether the culture of increased telework is here to stay.

An overwhelming 81 percent of DoD IT and program managers said they want to see DoD telework more frequently post-pandemic, according to new research. The study, “Meeting the Mobile Mission: Secure Collaboration for National Defense,” underwritten by Microsoft, found that 85 percent say the lessons learned from the telework shift will better prepare DoD in supporting the warfighter in the future.

“Every CIO and CISO is dissecting telework progress and challenges; security is priority one,” said Steve O’Keeffe, Founder, MeriTalk. “Net – we’ve taken a giant leap forward. Now is the time for open dialog across government to identify what’s working and double down on what’s needed.”

While a majority of the 150 DoD IT and program managers agree that telework should be used more frequently going forward, it is not without challenges. When the transition to telework was announced, just 30 percent said the department was “very prepared” to meet this requirement. Further, 73 percent said that the increased telework has made national security more challenging.

To address these challenges, managers are stepping to the plate to take big swings at improving cybersecurity during the telework surge. For example, IT managers have increased capacity of virtual private networks (VPNs) and provided telework-specific security training for the IT workforce.

“We need to effectively support the mission and – very importantly – the security requirements,” Vice President for Federal at Microsoft, Greg Myers said. “This means empowering teams with the ability to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time – whether they are in the field, in the office, or at home. It means secure bring-your-own-device policies, cloud, and collaboration. Agencies across the government have fast forwarded digital transformation over these past months. The key is to continue the progress at scale.”

DoD IT and program managers acknowledge there have been collaboration challenges and that improving remote collaborate is high priority. Ninety-four percent of IT managers say they’ve adopted new solutions to foster remote collaboration, including CRV environments, web-based chat platforms, and cloud-based email.

Looking to the long-term success of remote work and a mission-friendly teleworking experience, DoD IT and program managers want access to a robust and scalable network, continued emphasis on existing protocols related to remote work, including VPN use and multi-factor authentication, and a more reliable collaboration platform.

DoD and IT program managers are in agreement – lessons learned from this surge in telework will leave the DoD better prepared to support DoD missions, beyond the current crisis. Read the full report with recommendations and lessons learned here.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.