The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive shift in the Federal workplace, first pushing the majority of the workforce to virtual environments, and then leading to the rise of hybrid environments. Robin Carnahan, General Services Administration (GSA) administrator, said this week the time is now to reimagine how people work.

At Government Executive’s State of the Federal Workforce event Oct. 20, Carnahan said it’s important to make sure that Federal employees have everything they need to work, whether they are remote, in the office, or using a hybrid model.

“Now is the perfect moment to experiment and try new things,” Carnahan said. “For example, if a team can just as effectively work from home, agencies should be thinking about how to ensure they have all the tools they need to be effective.”

For remote working GSA employees, Carnahan said the agency is working on an “office-in-a-box” that comes with everything employees need to set up a remote office. The box includes a monitor, internet access, a keyboard, a mouse, a chair, and more, according to Carnahan.

For the Federal employees that prefer working in an office setting, GSA is exploring “flexible co-working spaces” with a pilot FlexHub site. The site, like other commercial office-sharing options, would allow Federal employees from any agency to come into a ready-to-use office space.

The Data Angle

Carnahan said the current moment also allows the Federal government to look at how it is using facilities, and decide whether and the best ways to consolidate space.

“In addition to experimenting, the second thing we need is better data collection,” Carnahan said. “Common sense suggests that using and consolidating into federally-owned facilities is better for taxpayers than signing new leases.  And many agencies are going to be expanding telework options and thus using their office space very differently than before the pandemic.”

“But in order to track those cost savings, we need to work closely with partner agencies to collect more data about building usage,” she added. “That’s why we’ll be advocating for the use of Occupancy Monitoring Systems to help understand current usage and to predict future demands on real estate.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.