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The Federal Government return to work, hybrid work and future of the workplace

Updated: Feb 25



Possibly the most talked about topic when it comes to the Federal Government after the budget or lack thereof at this point, is the return to office and the new work environment. In the 2022 State of the Union address, President Biden pledged that “the vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.” In April 2023 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ended maximum telework and sent out further instructions for agencies to return to work. However, in July of 2023 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating that “federal buildings remain underutilized due to longstanding challenges and increased telework and that "17 of the 24 federal agencies used on average an estimated 25 percent or less of the capacity of their headquarters buildings."


Some of the lack of adherence to the return to office is due to push back from the Federal Employee Unions which are pretty powerful.


What does the future of work and workspace look like for the Federal agencies? In my opinion this is continually evolving for everyone, including Federal agencies, but I think we can and should look to GSA for some answers to this question.


At the Quality Partnership Council (QPC) meeting in May 2023, we had the opportunity to tour the Innovation Lab in DC run by Chuck Hardy, Chief Architect at GSA (check out my Delve article June 2023 for a deeper look into the lab itself.)


The purpose of the lab is to help agencies see new trends/innovation in the workspace and test drive a GSA “WeWork” type environment. Technology is a huge factor in the new work environment and is a big part of the lab in addition to showcasing flexible office furniture.


At the QPC meeting we heard from Jonathan McIntyre, Director, Center for Workplace Strategy, GSA Public Buildings Service (PBS) on “The Future of Work and the Path Forward” and “Workplace 2030.” According to McIntyre the purpose of PBS is t


o “design, deliver and maintain safe, smart and sustainable workspaces that enable employees and agencies to best serve the American people.”


In McIntyres presentation on “The Future of Work and the Path Forward” he speaks to

  • 5 outcomes they are driving to, including #1 Shape the future of work

  • Understanding the Metrics that Matter: Policy and Culture, Relationships and Teamwork, and Space and Place

  • The need for Modernized and Optimized workspace

  • Future workplace ecosystem emphasizing hybrid work

  • The need to articulate the benefit of in person work and what those benefits are in order to get people back to the office and find value in being there.

  • Understanding shifts in technology and effect on workspace/hybrid work.

  • Rethinking space and place allocations: less enclosed office and open plan with the addition of alternative workspaces.

As McIntyre looked forward to the Workspace of 2030 the focus is on 5 guiding principles

  1. Work can be done anywhere, at any time.

  2. Distributed work is trusted work.

  3. The office is necessary and its purpose is shifting.

  4. Agencies are willing to share space.

  5. Talent recruitment and retention can benefit from distributed work.

The hybrid work continuum, according to McIntyre, has 5 facets: office centric, office/hybrid, hybrid/remote, and remote/virtual. Workplace 2030 I focused on office hybrid and hybrid/remote with a goal to understand, improve and communicate product and service offerings for hybrid and hybrid/remote work which ties in perfectly to the purpose of the GSA innovation lab. PBS has 4 new offerings in development for this new workspace which include

  1. Fast Track Space: Agencies choose from pre-packaged space designs, concept models and square footages to fit their needs

  2. Federal Space Listing: A toll listing GSA’s vacant owned and leased space to facilitate cons

  3. olidation opportunity discussions.

  4. Federal Coworking: on-demand coworking space in existing GSA owned buildings and leases.

  5. Secured Federal Coworking: On-demand secured coworking space in existing GSA owned buildings and leases.


What does all of this mean to the furniture industry? While we are waiting for the final numbers to be available for fiscal 2023, trends suggest furniture spending will be up over fiscal 2022 even with people not back in the office. We know based on what we are seeing trending commercially and what we are hearing from GSA and PBS they are planning for some sort of hybrid/return to work. I think it is fair to say we all know it will look different than it did before March 2019 and for those manufacturers and dealers who are staying tuned in to what is happening and able to pivot quickly to offer different types of furniture products, perhaps including technology, I think the future of work and workplace 2030 at least as it pertains to the Federal government looks good!


The recording of the entire May 2023 QPC can be found here GSAs YouTube site.


ABOUT MICHELLE WARREN

Founder, President - Catalyst Consulting Group  


Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance their sales, positioning, and distribution. With 25 years of industry experience on the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry, Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in selling to the Federal Government, State/ Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. Her expertise includes: sales strategies, strategic planning, 3-5 year road mapping, targeted marketing plans, distribution development, hiring reps, and training for reps and/or dealers. Michelle is known as a “serial networker” in the furniture industry and enjoys meeting people and making connections happen.


If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at: [email protected], connect on LinkedIn or visit www.strategic-catalyst.com to learn more about her work.


As seen in Delve | November2023 V.44

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