In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved almost entirely to telework, an EPA spokesperson confirmed to MeriTalk.

Prior to the EPA offering telework due to COVID-19, the agency – which has roughly 14,000 permanent employees – had 58 percent of its workforce teleworking in some capacity. A month after it made the jump to telework, the agency now has 96 percent of its workforce teleworking full time.

A massive increase in telework required EPA to expand its capabilities. While the EPA spokesperson said the agency was “telework-ready,” it did increase VPN server capacity and license to support the increased demand. “Planning and communication was key to successfully respond to unscheduled telework under COVID-19,” the spokesperson explained. “Laptops are agency standard-issue, but we acquired additional assets and leveraged virtual desktop infrastructure and high-computing alternatives where necessary to support our mission.”

The agency views its unexpected move to telework as a success and credits a number of its modernization efforts for being able to make the transition work on short notice. EPA credits its cloud-based email and collaboration service, which were accessible without the VPN from Government Furnished Equipment (GFE). Additionally, the agency already used laptops as the standard-issue endpoints to simplify telework and facilitate ongoing service delivery. Meaning, as the spokesperson said, “most users had the tools necessary to quickly achieve productivity while we augmented VPN services to meet the increased demand.”

The agency also relied on its operations and support staff to get teleworking employees up and running. “EPA’s dedicated operations and support teams across the agency went above and beyond to quickly augment infrastructure, develop communications and collaborate in assisting and supporting our workforce in the transition,” the agency said. “It was a truly collaborative effort across EPA staff, contractors, and our solution providers.”

The EPA isn’t the only Federal agency that has made a massive pivot to telework in light of the ongoing pandemic. Department of Defense CIO Dana Deasy said the Department has moved 900,000 employees to telework. Deasy called it “is the largest rollout ever implemented in this short amount of time.” The National Science Foundation has achieved a 100 percent employee telework rate, the agency told MeriTalk. Housing and Urban Development confirmed to MeriTalk that 95 percent of its employees are currently teleworking. The State Department CIO Stuart McGuigan said that the Department’s workforce is at about 90 percent telework, with the remaining 10 percent performing duties not transferrable to telework such as driving.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.