As Federal agencies deliberate how to reopen traditional offices and the policies they will need to keep employees safe, one thing is clear: gone are the days when the cubicle was the only option for government workers. The pandemic has forced Federal agencies to rethink telework policies, remote work, and even in-office setups.
Daniel Pomeroy, the deputy associate administrator at the Office of Information Integrity and Access at the General Services Administration (GSA), emphasized the need for a toolset with high inclusion capabilities to fully maximize the Federal workforce in a hybrid working environment, during a July 7 webinar hosted by GovLoop.
However, in a hybrid work environment, the challenge becomes how can Federal agencies integrate the virtual and in-office work environment while still fully maximizing employee capabilities, according to Pomeroy.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us that we make accommodations and be fully inclusive,” said Pomeroy.
For example, throughout the pandemic, agencies used virtual meetings as a proxy for in-person interactions. But to maximize inclusion moving forward, agencies need to know the toolsets they have – or lack – to conduct business properly.
“Agencies must assess and provide reasonable accommodations to meet employee needs, whether that be text-to-voice document features or audio descriptions. And if we are proactive in this effort to build a toolset that has a high level of inclusion, then we can maximize a broader workforce,” Pomeroy said.
GSA’s Office of Information Integrity and Access educates Federal agencies about their responsibilities under Section 508, and building the infrastructure necessary to support IT accessibility and Section 508 implementation government-wide. Section 508 provides guidance and tools to help agencies buy, build, and manage accessible technologies and accessibility information for vendors selling technology solutions to the Federal government.
“As the pendulum has swung from an in-person, four-walls work environment to a virtual space, these four walls from the space we use to do business needs to conform to where we are headed as a government. We need to focus on better updating our systems and policies for virtual and in-person to perform efficiently and effectively as the Federal workforce evolves into the 21st century,” said Pomeroy.