As telework and hybrid work have become part of the new normal for the Federal government, General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Robin Carnahan said her agency is rethinking the use of physical building space and will be rolling out coworking spaces for agencies to test in November.

At ACT-IAC’s Imagine Nation ELC 2022 event on Oct. 24, Carnahan explained that GSA – the agency that oversees the civilian Federal government’s real estate – is focused on “having a Federal footprint that’s reflective of what we actually need.”

“Agencies are beginning to think about sharing space, which hasn’t always been a thing in the government. Well, now it is,” Carnahan said. “Agencies are actively thinking about how they can collaborate and share a space.”

Carnahan explained that GSA will be testing out coworking spaces the week of November 14, and will first roll out the opportunity in Washington, D.C., Denver, and San Francisco. For this “coworking week,” she said Federal employees can test out coworking spaces for free and get a glimpse into what coworking would look like for their teams.

“Ultimately, we may think about some other coworking spaces, but that’s the thing we’re going to be testing in November,” she said. “We’ve also got a few other tools people can look at – ways that they can maximize their space.”

Carnahan went on to say that there won’t be a “cookie-cutter solution for everyone,” as agency missions differ and will require different workplaces. Nevertheless, she said most Federal agencies understand that the workplace of today is “still a work in progress,” and may require some trial and error to get it right.

“We know you’re going to need building space, but they’re probably going to need to be set up differently,” Carnahan said. “So, the configuration of that space, what it’s used for, [and] when people are there is going to look a little bit different.”

“While there’s lots of uncertainty, there is clarity on those topics. And so we are providing a lot of consulting services for agencies that are thinking through these same issues, and also thinking about new products that might meet a need,” she added. “I am very eager to kind of get these stood up, and either they’re going to work, or not work, pretty quickly.”

Carnahan said GSA is also rolling out a space at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., for agencies to test out new products for their workplace.

“At 1800 F – which is our main headquarters in Washington – we’ve got lots of different companies that have brought products in that shape space differently, different configurations, so we’re going be opening that up for agencies that want to come in and just like test it out, and see what it would be like to have their teams work in this kind of environment,” Carnahan said. “So, we’ll see, I think we’re trying a lot of things to see what might work and we’ll report back next year.”

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