What Your Agency May Look Like in 2020

By Brittany Ballenstedt

September 19, 2013

Have you wondered what your federal agency will look like in 2020? It may be a place where bulky, expensive buildings are a thing of the past: An influx of fresh young talent is revamping government, and more than half of the workforce is teleworking.

That’s according to a new report by GovLoop, which included a survey of more than 270 public sector professionals on their views of telework both now and in the future. Survey respondents peered into their crystal balls and predicted five trends that will be commonplace in 2020:

  1. Physical office space will be significantly reduced.
  2. Telework will be a component of the workplace that all generations will expect, thanks to efforts by younger generations who expect to work remotely.
  3. More than half of the federal workforce will be teleworking for the majority of their workweek.
  4. Improvements in video-conferencing will make working from home or alternative work sites better, easier and more collaborative.
  5. Government will become more regionally diverse and therefore more resilient in times of disruptions.

“The agency of the future is more likely to be distributed and use telework as its primary operating mode,” the report states. “The technology is there – from instant messaging, video calls, to mobile phones. The trick is how we use this new technological capacity to craft policies and norms that leverage them to better accomplish an agency’s mission.”

Federal agencies may well be on their way to this workforce of the future. Of those surveyed, 66 percent telework at least once per month, with 7 percent doing so full-time. Thirty-three percent said they currently do not telework but want to initiate an agreement.

Given the pace of technological change, those numbers could change dramatically by 2020. But the government will have to overcome some obstacles to effectively get to a place where more than half of feds do the bulk of their work outside of the traditional office. Unsurprisingly, respondents cited old-school mindsets among managers, a lack of trust for teleworkers and slow technology implementation as major barriers to telework implementation.

Respondents also cited concerns about telework not being flexible enough and that telework could cause them to miss out on important happenings at the office.

“The cultural bias against telework is shifting as technology makes it easier to stay connected to colleagues and work-related information,” the report states. “Instant messaging, voice over [Internet protocol] and mobile phones, plus the ability to access email and the Web anytime, anywhere, is allowing employees to stay plugged into the office. They are no longer out of sight, out of mind because technology allows them to remain present.”

How do you envision your agency in 2020? Does technological change have the power to overcome the cultural barriers, so much that more than half of feds will be teleworking?  

Explore the future of technology in government at Nextgov Prime Oct. 15-16 in Washington. Registration for federal employees is free.

By Brittany Ballenstedt

September 19, 2013