Amid all the uncertainty about how fast COVID-19 (coronavirus) is spreading across the U.S., and whether the country will succeed in “flattening the curve,” many governments have started sending a portion of their employees home.

But in the age of the Internet, that doesn’t mean they can’t still work. And that’s where the IT department comes in — remote work for government requires policies and human resources work, but it also very much relies on the ability of employees to access the software, data and systems they use to serve the public.

To see what solutions government is turning to in order to support remote work, Government Technology reached out to technology leaders at the state, county and city level all across the U.S. Below is the information they sent back.

All of the information provided here, with the exception of Ted Ross in Los Angeles, was sent in written form. Government Technology has made minor edits to some answers for style and clarity.

Andrew Westrope contributed to this story.

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CITY OF BATON ROUGE/EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA.

From Eric Romero, Director of Information Services:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

We have had limited requests previously, usually for the executive level. Now we are getting requests for all levels of the government.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

Given the recent increase in cyberattacks against municipal governments, we are only providing remote access on city-owned devices which we know have the latest patches and protection. Those devices VPN into the network and then remote desktop to their office computer or they work from the laptop.

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STATE OF DELAWARE

From Justin Day, chief of partner services, Department of Technology and Information:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes, both.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

DTI supported remote/telework capabilities prior, but quickly scaled to support the state workforce.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

  • SSL/VPN
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Remote desktop
  • End-user devices (laptops)
  • WebEx
  • Softphones
  • Skype 
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DUPAGE COUNTY, ILL.

From Donald Carlsen, CIO:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

Before, but to a much lesser extent than we are now.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

  • VPN access
  • Citrix access
  • Office 365 — we are using Microsoft Teams a lot more than we were
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CITY OF LOS ANGELES

From Ted Ross, CIO:

“The city of Los Angeles uses Google Suite, so we have from-home access to email, calendar, Google Meet, chat … There are a lot of things that you can do simply through what we call mail.lacity.org, so we have a lot of those office collaboration tools, and office productivity tools, available to users. But in addition to that, there’s a lot more that people often need, so while some users are sufficient with simply having access to the Google drive and email, there’s a large number of users who still require additional capability, and for them, we set up a robust remote desktop protocol platform over the last couple of weeks. We call it ‘Connect to LA City,’ and in that, it gives them capability to get to the types of apps that were traditionally only accessible over the network, as well as a full remote desktop protocol. So instead of us trying to juggle the challenge of getting them access to shared drives, and an environment they’re used to working in at their work desktop, we went ahead and allowed them to come securely and remotely into it. It’s a big, established platform that we’re able to handle 20,000-plus users. We’re not there at 20,000 users yet, but it does give us the capability to be able to process that.”

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CITY OF OAKLAND, CALIF.

From Andrew Peterson, CIO:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

My organization has been asked to provide telecommute capabilities for the entire city of Oakland workforce — i.e., those functions that can be done remotely.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

We have had capabilities prior to COVID-19, however, they were scarcely utilized. The coronavirus has significantly increased demand for telecommuting and as a result has required us to greatly increase our capacity and methods of telecommuting.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

  • VPN
  • Virtual desktop — AWS-based
  • Office 365 
  • Microsoft Teams — collaboration space (files, chat, etc.), video and audio conferencing 
  • Zoom webinars 
  • Increased number of laptops 
  • RDP — remote desktop
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CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

From Andrew Buss, Deputy CIO for Innovation Management:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes, the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) has been asked to support remote work on behalf of our municipal government. We have been working to ensure that city employees whose work can be performed remotely are equipped with the technology and knowledge to do so.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

Over the last year or two, the city has been testing remote work through both an enterprise-level policy as well as individual agency policies. The enterprise-level policy enabled remote work in the event of a home or personal emergency that precluded someone from physically being in the office. About three months ago, our office implemented a remote work policy which permitted more planned and scheduled remote work. These policies have been working well and have given OIT an opportunity to prepare our own infrastructure, equipment deployment, and habits to strategically support remote work for city employees. 

OIT had also started an enterprise-wide effort to implement Microsoft Teams as the communication and collaboration platform of choice recently. This work began about one month before the coronavirus outbreak and has proven critical to enabling a larger part of the workforce to work from home. 

The current situation has accelerated these preparations for remote work, but our early efforts at supporting remote work from a strategic standpoint have proven helpful during the coronavirus. There are simply more city employees who are able and comfortable with remote work now than there were even a year ago.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

  • Strategically moving from desktop computers to more of a laptop model to allow portability for employees wanting or needing to work remotely. 
  • A coordinated use of OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams to serve as the primary platforms (and an integrated platform in Teams) for remote work. So, unsurprisingly, a lot of cloud-based tools that don’t require use of in-network shared drives. 
  • A Virtual Private Network (VPN) option for employees who need to go beyond communication and document access needs (i.e., employees who must access the city’s network in order to reach business-critical applications that aren’t in the cloud).  
  • We’ve created a separate URL that can be reached from our phila.gov webpage via employee credentials that includes critical how-to documents related to remote work. The site offers guides about using technology to work remotely (i.e., Teams, VPN, etc.), policies and procedures about coronavirus-related human resource and payroll operations when working remotely, and instructions about contracting and vendor payments while working offsite.
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STATE OF UTAH

From Stephanie Weteling, public information officer, Department of Technology Services:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes, we have been asked to support all remote work capabilities for all executive branch state agencies.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

The governor and lieutenant governor started a remote work program about a year ago to increase telework for state employees. We have been working on this effort for many months now. You can see more here.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

We are requiring all employees to VPN using Palo Alto Networks’ GlobalProtect, which allows employees to connect to state systems, like they are in the office. This also allows the use of softphones.

We use Google G Suite for email, collaboration, chat and video conferencing. 

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CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.

From Pedro Wallace, CIO:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

The city of Virginia Beach had a telework plan in place prior to this recent crisis.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Cisco WebEx for audio/video capabilities 
  • Cisco Jabber for remote phone/communication capabilities 
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Gateway
  • VMWare Workspace ONE 
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WAKE COUNTY, N.C.

From Bill Greeves, Chief Information and Innovation Officer:

1. Has your office supported/been asked to support remote/telework capabilities for your agency or other agencies?

Yes, we have long had teleworking capabilities and a policy to govern their use.

2. Was that before or after the coronavirus started spreading?

Until recently, it was primarily utilized by internal departments. However, last week the county manager issued a directive for all positions capable of teleworking to do so ASAP, provided it doesn’t cause any major service disruptions. This dramatically increased our use of the capability and the tools. We estimate that over half of our workforce is now teleworking on a daily basis. The remainder of services still open are now creating alternative social distancing options including physical separation of workers, staggered shifts, etc.

3. What solutions do you have that enable remote/telework?

For security concerns I can’t mention brand names. But I can say that we offer a suite of secure, reliable tools that allow for remote conferencing, mobility, voice and video calls, file and screen sharing, online meetings, IM and shared collaboration workspaces. We also put together a quick reference guide and full documentation and training for all of the teleworking tools, to make it easier on employees who are new to the teleworking process. All of this info, along with all other COVID-19-related policy changes and updates, are available to our employees on a dedicated section of our corporate intranet.