The precise location of an employee is increasingly unpredictable, between business travel, telework, and workplace changes like hoteling and multi-office approaches. Nearly nine in ten federal respondents to a recent survey, the Government Mobility Pulse Poll™, said that a mobile device is critical to doing their job. About the same number of employees reported that they regularly used a personal device as well as a government-issued device for work.

The rapid rise of workforce mobility has raised critical questions about the security of communications and record-keeping. Offering flexible workplace alternatives to employees is often vital for recruiting top talent. But what is the optimal balance between affording that flexibility while protecting the data that they’re entrusted with on a daily basis? For the private sector, the balance focuses on protecting personally identifiable information, proprietary information, and other corporate data. For the federal government, information security needs to range from the protection of veterans’ health data to securing the country’s most sensitive information. Addressing these issues has posed continual challenges for both the public and private sectors.  

In a July 2018 survey of defense and civilian technology leaders, focusing on security and mobility, Booz Allen Hamilton and Market Connections identified several trends:

Working on the Go is a Top Priority. When asked about the importance of mobility in the federal work environment, 93 percent of respondents noted that it was important to them, with more than 70 percent noting it was “very important” or “extremely important.” Given travel requirements, interagency meetings, and public engagements, it’s not a surprise that federal IT experts are feeling the pressure to accommodate employee mobility within federal organizations.

Our Mobility Needs are Driven by Innovation in Workplace Design. Gone are the days of cubicle farms and corner offices for executives. What’s in? Telework to accommodate on-the-go lifestyles and open office styles that encourage collaboration. Respondents noted that today’s federal workforce was likely to work from a telework location (70 percent); an open office environment (28 percent), or even in a floating or hoteling arrangement with no assigned desks (23 percent). A recent Harvard Business Review article called for teleworking as a way to boost employee productivity and efficiency. Considering this change in the nature of federal workspaces, leaders must continue to integrate security while allowing greater flexibility.

Security Needs to be Balanced with Mobility. When asked about their biggest concerns in workforce mobility, civilian and defense IT leaders primarily raised three significant impediments to mobility: issues with security and monitoring mobile devices (43 percent); enforcing different security protocols based on location (37 percent); and lack of control over device location (32 percent). With the increasing prevalence of hacking, IT officials are looking to both hardware and software solutions to square the rising need for workplace mobility with increasing pressures for security. Based on recent reports from across the government, options for mobile devices are improving, but a gap still exists in security options.

So, now what?

The survey results helped Booz Allen cybersecurity leaders, mobility experts, and product designers formulate these three recommendations:

  1. Recognize that Mobility and Security Aren’t Mutually Exclusive. A more mobile workforce doesn’t necessarily have to be a less secure workforce. Federal leaders should look for opportunities to bring together priorities on mobility and security to create a technology environment that works for both the workforce and an organization’s security needs.

  1. Build In, Don’t Bolt On. Too often, security for mobile devices is an afterthought, tacked on with a software-based solution rather than integrated into the nuts and bolts of the hardware. As the federal government considers IT supply chain issues, it must favor hardware solutions that are built in during manufacturing over software solutions that are added later and are often clunky. Government needs true defense-in-depth devices and data protection, but agencies are discovering that existing security solutions are largely too superficial.

  1. Create Technology for the Workforce of the Future. Today, the federal government faces a significant challenge with an aging workforce and a talent pipeline that’s more inclined toward freelancing and job-hopping than a career at a single organization. As federal leaders inside the Beltway endeavor to recruit the next generation, it’s not sustainable to force employees to work solely at their desks. The federal government will need to adopt a people-centric approach to address both physical and cyber threat vectors. With the right products and an educated workforce, agencies can move from fitful, de facto mobile adoption to deliberate and responsible mobility that’s flexible and secure enough to work for everyone.

On a practical level, there are valuable products available to help to accommodate mobility while ensuring that vital information remains secure. Booz Allen has developed District Defend™ to be offered on the Dell Latitude 5290 2-in-1. District Defend is a workplace mobility solution that empowers government agencies and businesses to equip employees with fully-featured tablets and laptops without fear of data loss, theft, and malicious activity. To learn more, visit our District Defend homepage.  

Regardless of mission, federal agencies are ready to embrace mobility solutions for their workforces. They see the value for employee morale and productivity, as well as cost efficiencies. The primary barrier is protecting agency data. By working with industry leaders to address the security and technology requirements of a truly mobile federal workforce, federal leaders can break down barriers and help agencies create the sustainable workplace of the future.

About our research partner Market Connections

Market Connections delivers actionable intelligence and insights that enable improved business performance and positioning for leading businesses, trade associations, and the public sector. The custom market research firm is a sought-after authority on preferences, perceptions, and trends among the public sector and the contractors who serve them, offering deep domain expertise in information technology and telecommunications; healthcare; and education. For more information visit: www.marketconnectionsinc.com.