The CIA has had a public voice since 2002. What used to be faxes, phones calls, and snail mail for “Molly Hale” is now digital with a public forum where common questions about the Agency get answered. Behind the pseudonym is a real person who works at the CIA. The names and faces change over the years, but the goal is for the Agency to hear from the public and provide feedback. Recently, someone reached out to ask Molly about the state of remote work at the CIA, given the popularity of virtual life.
Remote Work at the CIA
Frankly, it’s a question that is often talked about. Public events have highlighted the recruiting challenges in the national security industry because of the demand for remote work. In the Intelligence Community (IC), the frustration has been even higher. Leaders have often argued the need to adjust work dynamics in order to retain and recruit talent. It’s hard to continually watch top talent leave the industry due to the workplace demands.
Molly clears up the remote work question – somewhat. The quickest answer is – no, there’s not remote work for CIA officers. However, there does seem to be a big shift towards employee wellness and flexible schedules. The CIA has made it clear that when they do their work, it has to happen in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). In order for that to happen, you have to be at the facility. But that doesn’t mean that times haven’t changed. The Agency knows that mission alone won’t recruit and retain the necessary workforce.
While CIA officers have to complete their work in the SCIF, they do have more flexibility in their schedules now. Additionally, the CIA has upped their focus on health and wellbeing. Their recent addition of the Chief Wellbeing Officer affirms their commitment to their workforce. While the rest of the world may be able to work anywhere, the CIA holds strong on offering a mission and caring about the employees supporting it.
The Benefit of Working in the SCIF
If you choose to work at the CIA, you may not be able to put in a load of laundry while you answer your emails. However, you can leave work at the office – in fact, it’s actually required. An increased focus on creating schedules and an environment that fosters flexibility has a positive impact. Add that to the fact that the CIA workforce has a greater ability to compartmentalize their personal life and work.
Multi-tasking the demands of your personal life with work needs isn’t always the most effective approach to productivity or managing stress levels. In fact, many have noticed increased stress levels when work and personal life get too muddied. The CIA’s approach to keeping employees in the office may seem extreme, but it also reflects the reality being embraced by Silicon Valley and a growing number of tech firms. For the CIA, what happens in the SCIF stays there. Flexibility may not have given way to remote work – yet – but it is a step toward the balance and flexibility all workers require.