Increased telework may improve federal cybersecurity

As the federal government continues to struggle to meet its cybersecurity needs, creative solutions may be necessary. For example, one of the biggest challenges agencies face in this capacity is recruiting and retaining a sufficient number of talented cybersecurity professionals. Without these personnel, it is difficult for department leaders to ensure the security of their data and other assets.

One possible strategy to alleviate this problem may be expanding government telework, as GCN contributor William Jackson recently suggested.

Telework benefits
As Jackson explained, the ability to work remotely holds a tremendous amount of appeal for employees. He cited a recent Mobile Work Exchange survey which found that 88 percent of participating human resource managers said they had lost at least one employee as a result of the lack of telework opportunities. Furthermore, more than half of respondents said they had trouble recruiting the best candidate for at least one position because they could not accommodate remote working preferences.

Jackson emphasized that the federal government's anti-telework policies make it difficult for agencies to compete with the private sector when it comes to cybersecurity professionals. This is particularly problematic for two reasons. First, the government already struggles in this area, due to the fact that cybersecurity professionals are highly coveted by private sector firms, which are able and willing to offer much higher salaries than federal agencies can provide.

Second, the ability to work remotely some or all of the time is especially important to younger workers who are just now entering the workforce. Surveys have shown that many millennials would even accept a reduced salary in exchange for remote work opportunities. If the government hopes to improve its cybersecurity staffing into the future, it needs to recruit these up-and-coming IT professionals.

Getting flexible
For these reasons, Jackson argued that the government's cybersecurity posturing would improve through the embrace of more telework options.

"Government  clearly will have to compete for these professionals in areas other than pay," Jackson wrote. "Flexible working conditions, including the opportunity to be mobile on the job and telework, is one place agencies can improve their hiring and retention."

By enabling cybersecurity professionals to perform their agency responsibilities remotely, at least to a degree, the federal government will be better able to attract and retain these workers, improving overall cybersecurity capabilities.