Amid evolving workplace changes following the worst portion of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts from the General Services Administration (GSA) are encouraging Federal agency leaders to ensure that future workplace change decisions be grounded in agency missions.

As the public health crisis ebbs, workplace decisions are no longer just about physical office space, but must also take into account other aspects such as culture, telework, and technology, according to Ryan Doerfler, senior workplace strategist at GSA’s Center for Workplace Strategy.

“I think the most important [best practice] is, as a Federal agency leader or an organization is contemplating a workplace change – maybe it’s something that GSA has done before, maybe it’s something different – is to really not focus just on the space aspect,” Doerfler said during an August 31 event hosted by Federal News Network. “One phrase we like to use, is essentially that there’s no on-size-fits-all solution.”

He explained that it can be easy for one person to look at workplace approaches taken by other organizations or companies and in turn, think it will also be the right approach for their own organization.

However, Doerfler cautioned against that tendency, and instead encouraged agency leaders to ask themselves, “Is it really going to help my organization succeed? Is it going to help my peers or my employees really thrive as far as accomplishing the mission?”

“My advice to agency leaders that are contemplating a workplace change – either the design of their space or changing the amount of telework their employees can adopt or looking at a more distributed organization model, for instance – is make sure those decisions are grounded on will that help the agency accomplish their mission.”

“The big takeaway is: don’t focus just on space,” he added. “Think about technology, organization, culture, all of that other stuff and how they intersect together.”

Nina Albert, commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service, also stressed the importance of technology when considering a workplace change – especially when it comes to the physical workplace.

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“Every facility – whether you’re a lab, or Land Port of Entry, or a headquarters building, – has to be technology-enabled,” Albert said. “That means that as technology evolves, the building has to be able to accommodate those technology upgrades and changes and not a tremendously high cost of infrastructure replacement. So, the ability to accommodate technology changes has to be what we incorporate into all of our buildings.”

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity to harness this moment and rethink how we deliver the government mission, how we better serve the American public who are our customers, and how we support and engage our employees in one of the richest experiences that they can have,” she added. “GSA’s vision for what future work looks like in the workplace is that the workplace is flexible, it’s healthy, it’s sustainable, and the underpinnings of all Federal facilities are technology-enabled and secure.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.