Work-from-home: Centre updating its rule book to expand VPN, facilitate work-from-home

New Delhi: The Centre is working on new work-from-home guidelines for government functioning, including how offices will operate and procedure for file movement and disposal, under the new normal that the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in.

ET has learnt that some changes are also likely to be introduced in the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure—the rule book that dictates the functioning of every central government office and the movement of a typical government file—to align it with the new work dynamics, which includes work-from-home (WFH) situations, and increased use of electronic communication.

The Centre recently instructed that all officials at the deputy secretary level and higher must ensure 100% office attendance and secure virtual private network (VPN) access has been extended to officials across ministries to facilitate WFH.

The new guidelines, however, will address the issue in a more thorough and clear manner with plans to extend VPN access even further.


Under discussion are issues ranging from procurement of laptops and ensuring that all officials are able to operate from home with secure access, to detailing the time band within which employees must respond to office mails.

Flexi-timings for WFH, protocol for handling of confidential/classified documents besides disposal of VVIP references will be also detailed.

ET has learnt that the key idea is to ensure that office productivity is not hampered or compromised in any way even if a considerable number of employees have to operate from home.

Of special concern is the need to maintain the confidentiality of government documents as access to them expands beyond office computers in the WFH scenario.

According to officials, inter-ministerial discussions have begun to frame the new guidelines, which are likely to be issued later this week.

A senior official in the know confirmed the development. “In light of the pandemic, we are working on a full-fledged work-from-home protocol for the government offices. We are clear that we have to ensure that the productivity of government offices must not suffer or be hampered in any way, even as a large number of employees work from home,” the official said, requesting not to be named. “We are looking, in fact, at ways to ensure speedier work and disposal as well with a built-in 24*7 format and flexible timings, where possible. The other major focus will be on ensuring delivery of all public services in a timely and organised fashion.”

The official said “this will require additional infrastructure creation in some cases, besides increased digital features and a robust security system to ensure that the sanctity of government work is maintained.”

Involved in the framing of the new policy are the department of expenditure, home ministry, electronics and IT ministry, National Informatics Centre, department of personnel & training, and the department of administrative reforms and public grievances, besides representatives of state governments and experts.

It is learnt that the department of expenditure is drawing up estimates for increased procurement of laptops and other related infrastructure for personnel below deputy secretary level as well. The NIC and MeitY are looking at secure communication in government functioning.

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