Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

Telecommuting arrangements for operational continuity


This article is also available in Russian.

To limit the COVID-19 epidemic, governments in many countries are requiring all or most of their workforce to stay home. For national and international statistical organizations, this raises the prospect of a protracted period of time during which the vast majority of their operations will have to rely on telecommuting arrangements with their staff. This in turn creates huge challenges in order to manage "a very large and sudden spike" in the number of staff needing to work remotely, even for organizations that already have experience supporting a limited number of telecommuters.

A key focus area of the operational continuity plan of national statistical offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemia should therefore be to migrate on-site and field processes to a remote/telecommuting setting, including:

  • On-site and field processes that can be performed remotely by staff using existing infrastructure
  • On-site and field processes that could be performed remotely after digitizing and/or migrating them to cloud environments
  • On-site and field processes that would require establishing mechanisms for secure remote access to central databases and systems in order to be performed out of premises.

In many organizations, existing telecommuting policies were written under the assumption that such work arrangement was offered only to certain employees under special circumstances. However, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, telecommuting will likely become the rule rather than the exception in the foreseeable future. There is an urgent need to review and adapt existing telecommunication policies so organizations can nimbly adjust to the new situation. For instance, it will be necessary to establish less cumbersome process regarding the off-site use of corporate infrastructure and services by staff members.