The Federal government has “won the battle” over historical cultural impediments to widescale telework, and going forward needs to reimagine the workplace as a mix of remote and in-person settings, said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., speaking on Feb. 9 at the Resiliency Colloquium event organized by MeriTalk, ACT-IAC, and the Partnership for Public Service.

Asked about the future of telework for the Federal workforce, Rep. Connolly said that the success of telework has surmounted lingering objections to the practice “and the management mentality that ‘if I can’t see you, you’re not working.’”

“I think the pandemic has shown a we can remain productive, we can maintain morale, and we can continue on our mission remotely by using technology,” said Rep. Connolly, who chairs the House Government Operations Subcommittee.

“So I think that’s a prominent feature of the workplace, not to be questioned as we move forward to the future,” he said. “That means we are going to have to structure going forward … when do you physically come into the office.”

Regarding in-person conference events for government and industry, the congressman predicted that many such events would continue to be held in virtual settings, though not all.

“I don’t think it’ll go to zero, because I think we are social animals … that need to interact with each other,” he said. “No Zoom [event] can substitute for the kind of informal networking that occurs,” at in-person events and other less formal settings that Rep. Connolly said are ideal for fostering creative thinking.

“But I do think that we’re going to be a lot more selective about how many conferences we go to, or in-person meetings,” he said. “If you feel better and safer sitting at your desk and participating remotely, that’s your option. And I think we’re going move to that kind of culture as well.”

Rep. Connolly offered he was already seeing signs of that movement in Congress, where he said members are becoming more comfortable with proxy voting, rather than casting votes directly on the House floor. “I think we’ve been seeing that changes in how we legislate that are, by and large, I think, an improvement, and an efficiency that technology grants us.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.