Commentary: Telework from a manager’s perspective

Virtual environment creates challenges, opportunities

When the 88th Air Base Wing’s Strategic Initiatives Office was initially created in May 2019, the main focus was finding ways to quickly accommodate the growing workforce at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Our efforts included facilities usage via a service contract, shortening lease timelines, capturing growth within non-basing actions to advocate for military construction, reducing non-Department of Defense tenants on the installation and a review of telework policies.

Due to the existing regulations and levels of government involved in many projects, we gained little ground in most of those initiatives; however, COVID-19 restrictions forced telework to the forefront, making it a viable solution.

The speed in which mass telework was implemented across the enterprise created both challenges and opportunities for leaders and employees. Our small office embraced telework and hasn’t looked back. We took full advantage of the opportunity to “lead by example” and continue our mission in a completely virtual environment.

Since March 2020, we have worked virtually with very little need to set foot in a traditional office. Much of our on-base presence is in support of the occasional in-person meeting.

The challenges of working in a virtual environment include a lack of training on the use of some virtual tools, need for leadership training in how to manage a remote staff and potential feelings of isolation, just to name a few. We can overcome these challenges with the right training and continuous wingman support.

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The Office of Personnel Management posts telework training materials for both employees and managers at

Telework benefits include personnel flexibility, job satisfaction and the smaller physical footprint base civil engineers must maintain. Although communication can be either a challenge or benefit, I have found it’s easier than ever in a virtual environment, and my team meets more now than we were able to as an in-person staff.

Since Health Protection Condition Bravo was recently declared, with hopes of HPCON Alpha soon, I am reminding leadership across the installation that telework is a strategic tool on our toolbelt to move the Air Force mission into the future. Brick-and-mortar modes of operation are not necessary anymore, in many instances. In fact, WPAFB will have the same administrative-facility deficit it had before the pandemic without any agile means to address it.

Pivoting from an in-person to virtual management style is a cultural and organizational change. Senior leadership support is essential for it to be successful.

Building trust, developing self-leaders and embracing the Air Force’s core values of “integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do” are actions we can take to make the change easier.

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