With tech companies announcing plans to continue allowing—and even encouraging—employees to work remotely beyond the end of the pandemic, the U.S. Defense Innovation Board has urged the Department of Defense to improve its own work from home policies.
In a September report, the board, an advisory committee to the Secretary of Defense, pointed out that the DoD “has traditionally struggled to compete for digital talent,” and “the emerging work from home norm creates an opening for the Department to either adapt and narrow the gap or fall further behind in competing for top-notch technical talent.”
Right now, the Department of Defense is allowing some employees to work remotely, using standard remote collaboration tools with an extra layer of security, but has not decided whether use of these tools will be permitted after workers return to the office. The Defense Innovation Board’s report argues that not only should these tools be preserved, but the use of such tools, along with accompanying infrastructure upgrades, should be expanded. Embracing remote work permanently would, the report claims, allow the DoD to hire a “more agile, diverse, and distributed workforce.”
In addition to urging the DoD to follow in the footsteps of commercial tech employers, the Defense Innovation Board made a few suggestions that I haven’t seen coming from tech businesses, and which those firms might want to embrace in return.
For one, the Board suggested that the DoD create “a nationwide network of dedicated co-working or shared workspaces” for remote work. This, it suggested, might be a way of handling classified work in a more distributed fashion, but it also could be a way for businesses to better fulfill the desires of employees to live wherever they want, but work some number of days each week at home and some in an office.
In another suggestion, the Board urged that, as part of an effort to change the culture around remote work, that senior DoD leaders “should commit to periodically working from home to model behavior, norms, and expectations around performance and presence; this will also create a demand for IT capabilities to remain up-to-date and not atrophy.”
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor based in Palo Alto, Calif., where she’s been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. Perry started reporting on California tech companies from IEEE Spectrum’s New York office in the early 1980s, before relocating to the Bay Area full time in 1986. She has the privilege of having a front-row seat as tech history is being made, including the early days of video games, the growth of the personal computer industry, the rise and fall of Xerox PARC, and the incredible startup boom in Silicon Valley today. She has conducted in-depth interviews with a host of tech pioneers, including Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, Robert Noyce, David Packard, Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi, Jim Clark, Ray Dolby, Alan Kay, Adam Osborne, Gene Amdhal, Gary Kildall, Gordon Bell, Steve Wozniak, Marissa Mayer, Elon Musk, and Nolan Bushnell.
Besides covering Silicon Valley and startups in print and in her blog, View From the Valley, Perry follows trends in consumer electronics technology around the world. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University.