IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

State Tech Leaders Offer Takeaways on Hybrid Work

Public-sector IT officials shared their thoughts at the recent California Public Sector CIO Academy.

IMG_4501.jpg
From left, Benjamin J. Bonte, chief information officer at the California Department of Industrial Relations; Dr. Casey Morris, diversity, equity and inclusion strategist lead at Accenture; Malissa Evans, senior director and area leader at Dell Technologies; and Quentin Wright, CIO at the California Department of Technology, discuss “Herding Hybrid Teams” at the California Public Sector CIO Academy.
Theo Douglas/Industry Insider — California
This story is limited to Industry Insider — California members.
This story is limited to Industry Insider — California members. Login below to read this story or learn about membership.
More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work seems here to stay — but so does hybrid work as the public and private sectors get back to a mix of in-person and virtual business.

In a realistic discussion of “Herding Hybrid Teams” recently at the first in-person California Public Sector CIO Academy since 2020, Benjamin J. Bonte, chief information officer at the California Department of Industrial Relations, and Quentin Wright, CIO at the California Department of Technology, shared their perspectives on that journey. The panel also featured Malissa Evans, senior director and area leader at Dell Technologies, and Dr. Casey Morris, diversity, equity and inclusion strategist lead at Accenture; and was moderated by Alan Cox, executive vice president of e.Republic and publisher of Industry Insider — California.* Among the takeaways:

  • The working situation and the team can help determine how supervisors interact with staff. The pandemic, Bonte said, brought an instantaneous heavy lift of moving thousands of employees to telework within just days or weeks — followed by the continued evolution of “how do you hold public hearings, how do you hold judicial hearings?” The entire team, he said, needs to work together “better than ever” given the new demands telework support has placed on IT. In practice, this has meant many conference calls across Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Cisco Webex to connect the roughly 160 people in his IT organization. But there are project teams, Bonte said, where he doesn’t have daily check-ins and others where he checks in roughly twice a week.
    “So, it really depends and you have to have the relationship with your team and continue to build the relationships and get to know what works best for that working situation, what works best for that relationship,” Bonte said, indicating meetings are “relatively informal” and less structured, focusing on things like accomplishments, planned accomplishments and sticking points.
  • Hybrid and hoteling approaches still differ between entities. CDT has a reservation system, Wright said, which enables a visual check of the department’s floorplans with maps and indications of amenities available at different cubicles — plus the ability to reserve a space for a block of work time in its three buildings. “That tool gives you the ability to not step on people’s toes; you can reserve it and be able to just go have your space and work,” he said. Staff clean the spaces but onsite sanitation stations are also available to workers — and once reservations expire, spaces simply become available again in the system. At DIR, officials haven’t altered their floorplans and continue to telework with staff required to be in the office at least two days a week. Employees have retained their own individual desks but, Bonte said, “The reality is, at some point, someone’s going to come and say ‘You’ve got space for 150 and you only have 40 or 50 in the office on any given day.’”
  • Work-life balance continues to be vital and CDT officials continue to promote that idea, even in meetings, Wright said, indicating he stresses to staff that they not overwork themselves. Earlier this year, Wright said, he took his virtual meetings in a nearby park and impressed attendees with his surroundings. “As long as you’re productive, I don’t mind where you are,” he said. “Look at what you can do and the flexibility of the hybrid work that you have. Now you have the opportunity to move locations. ... And be able to have that balance.” The move to remote and hybrid work has brought some clarity to the question of whether staffers are being productive enough, said Bonte, because it “shifted the focus from ‘You’ve got to be at your desk and you’ve got to look like you’re doing something’ to ‘You actually have to produce something.’ I think in a lot of ways it really helped.”
  • Professional development may look different. What hasn’t changed, Wright said, is CDT’s desire to train staff on whatever the situation may be — “even if it’s a patch, we get the teams together and try to train people on how can we mitigate this situation?” The department maintains an Office of Professional Development, and offers the Information Technology, Information Security and Project Management leadership academies (ITLA, ISLA and PMLA, respectively). Today, of course, gathering the team may happen in a virtual room, a physical room or both; and that training may occur across any of a variety of platforms — which, Wright said, is as it should be.
    “We’re trying to capture every single aspect of the audience because we have to think of where our people sit in the organization and where they sit outside our organization and make sure they have the platforms to be able to communicate and learn at the same time,” Wright said.

*e.Republic is the parent company of Industry Insider — California.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.