Jul 23 2013

How the GSA Is Reinventing Government Offices

GSA disrupts the traditional workplace in favor of a mobile workforce.

In an effort to reduce costs and create a more collaborative culture, the General Services Administration (GSA) has completely redesigned its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

The GSA joins other innovative agencies, such as FEMA, in a commitment to telework and mobility. The agency is renovating not only the physical office environment but also the cultural mindset of GSA employees. Consider it a revamp of the cultural infrastructure.

According to a blog post by GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini, this redesign is aimed at creating a productive environment beyond the barriers of a desk:

Thanks to the buying power of GSA and the federal government, we are able to negotiate leases that, on average, are more than 11 percent below market rates. This has created annual savings of $30 million in realized cost avoidance. In addition, we work aggressively to ensure that the facilities we own are being used as optimally as possible.

GSA knows how to use the size and the scope of the federal government to drive down costs, increase collaboration and efficiency. We are committed to building the kind of responsive and effective government that President Obama has challenged us to create.

The GSA’s headquarters will now be streamlined to optimize efficiencies agencywide. There is a digital trail of breadcrumbs left by employees as they move throughout the office, from the lobby to the meeting rooms. New technology includes cloud-based file management as well as touch-screen “room wizards” for conference-room scheduling.

By cutting the personal workspace in half, the GSA urges employees to embrace a new and versatile mindset. A Washington Post article outlines what the GSA hopes to achieve through this dramatic upheaval:

Tangherlini is betting that his employees will get more done if they are at home — or anywhere outside the office, for that matter — more often. He wants them to instant-message, Google-chat, e-mail and Internet-call their way through the workday on laptops and smartphones. He is betting that when they do venture into the office, they will work together better and more creatively if closed doors and high cubicles don’t get in the way.

The preparation for this redesign took a year to complete. Not only were employees trained on new technology, but they also had to learn additional office rules that reflect a collective outlook. Employees need to be cognizant of distractions, such as noise, and share storage space through the use of personal lockers.

Much of what the GSA has implemented is in direct contrast to the agency culture of the past. Shrinking budgets require outside-the-box thinking in order to bring the federal government into the digital age.

The GSA hopes that, as one of the leading agencies in real estate acquisition and technology innovation, it can set the example of how telework can be done right.


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