Recent research conducted by the industry-leading market research firm Market Connections in partnership with the Professional Services Council (PSC) indicates strongly that ubiquitous telework will be “the new normal” for federal employees across agencies – and that most are reworking their thinking around returning to work.
The survey – “The Continued Effects of COVID-19 on the Federal Contracting Industry and Your Customer”—was issued this month and focuses on the results of ongoing surveys of federal employees that began in April. As many as 53% of respondents indicated that the pandemic has forced their agency to “consider or ramp up telework when it hadn’t before.” This figure also indicates that many agencies had a long road to hoe to put protocols and systems in place to support telework when the pandemic hit – no small task for organizations of any size.
The ongoing concern over productivity while remote has fallen by the wayside given (1) the level and quality of work being done from home and (2) fears around the spread of the virus. 64% of respondents named health and safety as one of their top return to workplace concerns.
Leaders in government and in the contracting space are going on the record to recognize that the future of work has to be flexible, with safety being a top priority moving forward. Our own Chief of Human Capital, Rebecca Kenawell, described the necessity of a pragmatic, flexible approach: “We're being realistic and understanding that the future is probably going to look a little different than what it did in the past.”
In a recent interview with Washington Technology, Kenawell also underscored a theme that arose in the Market Connections survey – an explosion in use of video conferencing and collaboration platforms: “If someone has a problem, they hop on a zoom call or some type of WebEx call … they screen share and work through it together.”
The contracting community, too, is rethinking its approach to returning to work, looking to partners in government for cues and to collaborate on the best paths forward. The impact of the virus on contractors as well as government can’t be understated. As many as 69% of respondents from the contracting community indicated that at least one of their current contracts has been impacted by COVID-19, whether in terms of facility inaccessibility, work stoppage, restricted travel, or illness.
What does this mean for the future of federal work? Namely, that the contracting community and the federal workforce are in this together. The Market Connections and PSC survey found that 1 in 5 federal respondents said “they’re relying on vendors and contractors more frequently” than before the pandemic.
Kenawell, too, notes that flexibility must be built in to all systems and plans, to mirror the needs and dynamics of customers and the workforce: “We are thinking about what the future looks like under this new environment, we recognize that a lot of our protocols and things that we had to put in place [were] in response to the current crisis.”
Other notable findings of the survey include:
- The biggest and best opportunities lie ahead for contractors who can responsively build and support robust teleworking ecosystems.
- Webinars are experiencing a boom as the go-to source for new information and learning.
- Government feels effectively supported by their industry counterparts. “It’s not time [for industry] to pull back.”