There are many things I am enjoying about my new assignment and among them is the opportunity to live life outside the SCIF. I have spent almost all of my 25 years of naval service working in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). For the unfamiliar, a SCIF is a specially accredited room, building, trailer, etc. where committed professionals process classified information. Anyone who has ever visited one knows that there are specific rules as to who can enter, what can be brought into and out of the SCIF, and how one conducts themselves while inside. There is a reason behind most of the many rules that govern life in the SCIF. And for many of us, there are very few of our assigned official duties that we are able to execute outside the SCIF. The SCIF is our place of duty. It is where we do our work.

I have a very different job now. The work I do is not classified. The mobile technology issued to me is far less constrained than I am accustomed to. And the foundational tools we use to collaborate across our team are powerful, free, and the very same I use in my private life. The tether to the SCIF has been cut and I don’t believe that I have ever been afforded the opportunity to be so productive.

Last week, I was at a social for my son’s school and had the opportunity to meet some very engaging people. I talked about many things with many other parents and considered myself fortunate to be among such an open-minded group of people. I inadvertently glanced at my watch and noted that it was 0900 on a Tuesday morning. The idea of not being at my place of duty at that hour on a workday remains foreign to me and I felt that pull to the office tug at me. In preparation for my exit, I asked another Dad if he had to go to work that morning. He simply replied, “Sean, work isn’t a place I go. It’s something I do. So, yes I have some work to do, but I don’t have to go anywhere specific to do it.” Such is life outside government, I guess. Then I realized that though I am still proudly serving within government, there was no reason that I couldn’t adopt that very philosophy. The nature of work I am doing and the tools available to me didn’t require me to be ‘at’ work to ‘do’ work. What a foreign, yet liberating concept.

Since that rather obvious statement, I have slowly acclimated to working when I need to from wherever I might be at the time when such work needs to get done. I have been able to get up early and do some work from home, enjoy mornings with my family, and even take my son to school on occasion.  I have walked to work mid-morning taking calls along the way, pulled up a teammate on video chat only to find him in his living room getting work done, and collaborated in real-time on documents with others miles away while enjoying a football game. I have momentarily left the SCIF and the constraints of government to witness what work life can be in the 21st century and is for many. And quite honestly, I don’t know why others would settle for less given the option. I don’t know why we are adverse to giving more teammates the very same option.

I enjoy what I do as much as I ever have and in some aspects even more so. At the same time, I enjoy how I am allowed to work more than I ever have. Technology now affords us the opportunity to work in ways we only imagined. A lack of creativity, an affinity for regulation, and a general distrust of others limits us in ways we are unwilling to admit.  Life on the perimeter of government service is amazing. Seeing into both the public and private sectors at the same time makes the contrast greater than ever. The way we work must change. And clearly, it’s the public sector that needs to do the changing.

  • Work: Something you do or a place you go to do it?
  • More powerful: Technology you use in your personal or professional life?
  • Is work driving how you live or is how you live driving the work you choose to do?