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GSA Breaks the Mold of Government Workplace

GSA's headquarters at 1800 F Street NW. Image © Gensler

How do you create productive workspaces that foster innovation and allow for flexibility for the modern workforce?

The General Services Administration (GSA) recently faced that very question. Based on occupancy and badge data, officials at the organization learned that employees weren’t always working from their assigned desks and offices. GSA, which supports basic functions of federal agencies all across the country, found that its own employees don’t use their desks 100 percent of the time because they are offsite with clients, in meetings, teleworking, traveling, or on flexible work schedules.

To address these issues and to continue to move towards an even more model organizational culture, GSA has embarked on the most aggressive mobility and workplace strategy program currently underway in the Federal Government. Working with Gensler, the organization’s new 805,000 sf headquarters project at 1800 F Street NW in Washington, D.C., is a product of these efforts. GSA is leading by example in the development of cohesive workplace strategies that will increase organizational efficiency and performance. GSA is rolling out these strategies to other Federal agencies across the country to assist in right-sizing their operations.

So how does a massive organization develop a cutting-edge workplace strategy? Through an extensive assessment of GSA’s needs, Gensler identified how each GSA division worked, the level of mobility displayed by employees, the gaps, and the opportunities for improvement. This research led to insights on individual work styles, group work patterns, and workplace implications that worked best for each division.

GSA's headquarters at 1800 F Street NW. Image © Gensler

With the help of Gensler, GSA began renovating their headquarters. The renovation is now winding down, and the building will accommodate around 4,400 people (this capacity includes, employees, visitors, and contractors). This project will add 62,000 square feet of space, allowing the organization to move out of six leased spaces in Washington and Northern Virginia and save $24.4 million each year. Equally important is that GSA’s new headquarters will provide a work environment which is far more collaborative, transparent, and effective. GSA’s new workplace strategy is an ‘Activity-Based Working’ approach that gives each employee the ability to reserve the right type of individual or group work setting needed at the appropriate time. Newly designed space throughout the office encourages GSA employees to adopt new behaviors, adapt to virtual work, and work fluidly all over the building. A kit-of-parts furniture approach creates a flexible and adaptable environment, while allowing GSA employees to modify their space in support of new ways of working. These changes are critical as employee needs and functions change over time.

GSA employees now have the option to work out of the office when need be, but Gavin Bloch, chief asset officer of GSA, says the new headquarters is designed to be a “place where employees want to be, rather than have to be.” Bloch adds that a person’s work typically requires GSA employees to work remotely and in various locations and that the new workspace strategy re-aligns the organization’s headquarters with how the organization works best and saves money on real estate. In addition the new space provides the right mix of work settings and flexibility to support how GSA works both now and in the future.

Such flexible approaches, which balance employees’ need to focus on individual tasks with their need to work in cohesive teams, will help increase overall organizational performance in the knowledge economy. Over the next few months, I will share observations from the project, as Gensler and the GSA continue to collaborate and learn from this exciting project.

Janet Pogue is a Principal in Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office. She co-leads the firm’s Workplace Practice and is a frequent writer and speaker on the critical issues affecting the design of high performing work environments. Contact her at janet_pogue@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (2)

When are these offices going to be remodeled?
08.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan R. Levy
Construction is now complete and GSA is in the latter stages of re-occupying the building through a series of phased moves.

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