Remote work wasn’t in Delaware’s IT plan when the pandemic hit

On Monday, Delaware began phasing out its stay-at-home order. But moving most state employees to a remote work environment wasn’t in Delaware’s disaster recovery plan to begin with, according to James Collins, the state’s chief information officer.

Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order on March 22, prompting a majority of the state’s workforce to sign into work remotely. At that time, Collins said his top priorities were to ensure that cybersecurity and IT support could continue as they had when employees were in the office.

“This is ‘everybody go home,’” Collins told StateScoop in an April video interview. “Everybody needs a connection, maintain cybersecurity, maintain access to multiple applications, maintain the ability to be able to collaborate, take phone calls, participate in call centers, things like that.”

While remote working arrangements were not new to all Delaware state employees, the effort to move a majority of employees to a remote environment was a daunting task in the beginning, Collins said. 

“That just wasn’t in the plan,” he said. “We had a group of folks that had the ability to work from home and had the devices, but not in a large, large scale.”

In April, Collins and his team rapidly deployed remote desktop services, devices like laptops, collaboration tools, virtual meeting tools and other platforms so that people could continue their work. The state also increased its user education to help employees understand how to use new technologies and how to troubleshoot and report common problems. 

“We focused on rapidly deploying a lot of technology, getting people educated and being able to use those technologies to keep government going,” Collins said. “I could not have been more proud of the team. They just rose to the challenge, and we’ve been touching base with each of the agency partners to understand what are their needs and what problems they are facing.”

The technology department’s collaborative work included stepping in to help with the state’s unemployment system, public health initiatives and emergency services. In addition, the agency worked with the state’s education department to help it implement distance learning.

“Veering into the education world, I have so much respect for the professionals that work over there,” Collins said. “[I’m amazed by] the passion that they have to not only educate the students, but make sure they stay connected.”

This story is part of StateScoop & EdScoop’s Special Report on Remote Workforce.