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Change is never easy, and, as recent events have taught us, it’s not always gradual either. Sweeping changes were forced upon us all, from government to business to education to our basic, everyday social interactions. After several months of upheaval and adjustment, a clearer picture of what the future holds is beginning to develop, and with it, some positive new opportunities. 

Recently, Cornerstone surveyed employees from 143 public sector organizations to create the infographic below, including state, federal and local government; K-12 educational facilities; healthcare; and higher education institutions. What we found was that remote work is now a reality for 60% of the people surveyed, and the primary challenges aren’t necessarily what you might expect. 

Employee Well-being is the Priority

Although productivity and workforce security are certainly concerns, the numbers (15% and 10%, respectively) pale in comparison to the top priority: employee well-being. Of the HR leaders surveyed, 60% named employee well-being as their primary challenge moving forward. The key places where these HR leaders felt they needed the most help when it came to employee well-being is in managing remote collaboration and helping protect against or treat employee burnout

One of the most effective ways to address this challenge is through easier and more accessible communication and collaboration in and across teams. This approach requires organizations not only to maintain a free flow of important information, but to put in the work to create a culture where feedback is encouraged and collaboration fully supported. Yet, only 38% of participants in a separate survey of government agencies conducted by Cornerstone and govLoop said they were able to deliver virtual learning tools prior to the pandemic. These resources are important now more than ever to give employees larger context for their work while at the same time helping them to grow and develop and feel valued for their contributions. Not being able to provide access to these kinds of tools is no longer optional. 

Public Sector Organizations Are Embracing Remote Work and Learning

One of the key realizations among the 143 public sector organizations surveyed was that the pandemic taught them that they could be more flexible and adaptable when it comes to remote work. With that understanding, they were able to embrace eSignatures, webinars and other onboarding and educational tools to keep their workforce and students engaged and supported. 

Not, their focus is shifting from immediate response to long-term planning. No longer is it a question of “are we able to work remotely?” or “how do we work remotely?” Instead questions are centered on now “how can we make the most of this situation?” and “why didn’t we do this before?” Organizations are noticing the financial impact of less business travel and, potentially, less money spent on physical brick and mortar locations. Virtual education tools are eliminating barriers to access information, resources and teams. They’re directly contributing to increased employee engagement, and this new comfort level with 100% remote working has also increased and diversified the talent pool from which these groups can pull, beyond just the commutable area. Simply put, these organizations can now be more agile.

Instead of rebounding to work-life before the pandemic, these new approaches to communication, collaboration and learning provide an opportunity for public sector organizations to accelerate their ability to build a culture of service and to increase efficiencies that have a positive impact on their people and their constituents. We call this “business unbound” and the opportunities for public sector to harness the benefits are here now. 

Take a look at our research findings below to get a deeper sense of how much has changed in the past few months for public sector organizations, but also how increasingly optimistic the future looks.

COVID-19 and Beyond: An Infographic On How the Public Sector Can Make Lasting Change

Learning and Development