Air Force Materiel Command thinking now about post-pandemic telework

 By Jared Serbu @jserbuWFED, Federal Newsweek

Defense leaders far and wide have acknowledged that the productivity of their workforces in an almost-all telework situation has taken them by surprise. And though some of them have hinted at the idea that they’ll be more open to telework after the pandemic is over, at least one large command is actually laying the groundwork for that.

Gen. Arnold Bunch, the commander of Air Force Materiel Command said he’s directed a review of position descriptions across his 80,000-person command to decide if they’re more telework-compatible than what was imagined when those descriptions were written.

“I’m also going to look at how we set up our facilities. Do I need all those cubes? Can we create an environment where we have hot desks where people come into, they clean, and then then leave,” he said.” That may save us money as to how we go out and build facilities. It may create areas where we don’t need to lease as much space.”

Bunch acknowledged he was among the telework skeptics in the military leadership ranks prior to the pandemic. And even though the experience of the past several months has diminished that skepticism, he also sounded some notes of caution.

For one, he said, for telework to operate sustainably, and at scale, he said the emergency IT capabilities DISA and the Air Force created within a few weeks time frame — like Commercial Virtual Remote and various software licenses – need to stick around for the long-term to support a large-scale remote workforce.

Bunch also expressed concern about keeping airmen connected to the service’s “core values” when they’re not physically present in a government facility.

“It’s got to mean something to be part of the Air Force, and we have to look at how we acculturate airmen in and how we keep them connected to our core values. We also have to continue to focus on resiliency and connectedness. We can be physically distanced, but we have to be socially connected. This is a very trying time, and as we continue in telework status, we’ve got to have that linkage into the team,” he said “Our airmen have done a great job … but we have to continue to keep a focus on that as we go forward.”