From Chaos to Coordination: How the Brazilian Government is Setting a New Standard in Remote Work

By Marcelo Barbosa

The Brazilian Government has gotten the message loud and clear: The key to successfully implementing remote work is better management.

There's no need to reiterate the events of 2020, when a massive number of knowledge workers transitioned to remote work. The speed and lack of preparation for this transition were evident. Now, imagine this in an organization with more than half a million employees: the Brazilian Federal Government.

Fortunately, the abruptness of the change made individuals more receptive to innovation and experimentation. After all, what could be worse than a chaotic shift to remote work? However, the first wave of regulation post-Covid was based on the previous rationale of seeing remote work as a privilege afforded to a select few, and focused on individual oversight at the expense of team coordination.

Attributing performance issues to remote work is a misguided excuse. The quality of remote work is as good as the quality of its managers. This became evident as the team responsible for implementing remote work in the Federal Government embarked on a regulatory review process, involving surveys, focus groups, and interviews with leaders, managers, and employees. The most significant issue to emerge was that many managers were unprepared to handle team performance management.

Remote work has exposed various managerial flaws that often go unnoticed in an in-person setting. The traditional office environment can mask inefficiency with misleading indicators, such as equating physical presence with productivity or assuming that more interaction leads to better results.

Besides unprepared managers, the diagnosis revealed other challenges, including a flawed transition from traditional office work to teleworking, a lack of systematic data collection, failure to evaluate outcomes, disconnection from institutional strategy, and the perception of remote work as a human resources issue rather than a management concern.

To tackle these challenges, a management framework was designed with team performance at its core. In this framework, known as Programa de Gestão e Desempenho - PGD” in Portuguese, deliverables are owned by the organizational unit rather than individuals. Employees work to develop specific deliverables, and everyone in the team can see how their colleagues are contributing. Consequently, managers can no longer sidestep their responsibility to organize the team to achieve its goals.

This framework is set for wide implementation across various public institutions. It aims to enhance the management maturity within the Government. This involves enabling an administration based on evidence, greater transparency regarding activities and deliverables, improved workforce utilization, cost reduction, better alignment between strategy and work, reduced absences, talent retention, team engagement, and data-driven performance monitoring and evaluation.

The forced shift to remote work under unfortunate circumstances prompted the Brazilian Government to create a new management framework. This model sets a higher standard for all teams—whether remote, hybrid, or in-person. It's the start of a new era focused on team performance, and in this context, remote work is part of the solution.