GSA Embraces Telework While GAO Reports Other Agencies Still Need Improvement
With budgets tight and a laser focus on cost efficiencies federal CIOs are looking at creating environments that improve productivity, drive down costs and make use of existing resources. The General Services Administration (GSA) is taking the lead in this area.
During the Mobile Work Exchange Spring 2013 Town Hall Meeting, GSA’s Anthony Macri, who serves on the mobility transformation team, discussed the changes taking place within the agency. From consolidating office space and implementing some novel workplace rules, GSA’s overhaul embraces a new way of working for the federal government.
One of the most radical changes at GSA is how the agency has embraced ‘hoteling’, an approach taken by global organizations to reduce real estate costs. Following in-depth analysis of usage patterns, GSA found that employees were only at their desk an average of 40-50 percent of the time and yet the agency was paying for their use 100 percent of the time – clearly an inefficient use of resources and budget. To create great efficiency, GSA turned to hoteling, where employees no longer had assigned desks and instead reserved space on ‘as needed’ basis. This move improved the operational efficiency of desk space, allowing them to reduce the number of leases they hold and save money. Moreover, employees are encouraged to work from home and GSA has undertaken the necessary technological innovations to make collaboration between employees more feasible.
GSA was one of the first agencies to embrace cloud-based solutions; one example is their use of an open cloud based solution for calendar and document sharing to enable collaboration between employees. Video collaboration is leveraged for strategy sessions and meetings and conference rooms are equipped with the latest technologies to drive brainstorming and foster creativity.
However, not all agencies are ready to embrace telework like the GSA. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that there are many opportunities for improvement. As part of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) submits an annual report to Congress addressing the telework program of each executive agency. The report is then reviewed by GAO and agencies are subjected to performance audits to determine if progress is being made. Among the findings, GAO noted that challenges to telework included management resistance and technology limitations. With many the smaller agencies the lack of funding for technology purchases was often the stumbling block that prevented them from fully embracing telework. In preparation for the 2014 Telework Report, GAO is recommending that OPM provide assistance for agencies that are not yet able to report on their telework goals. In addition, OPM will also report in 2014 on the total savings that agencies have identified as a result of telework.
As agencies like GSA continue to share success stories and identify tangible cost savings and process improvements we hope to see many other agencies move in the same direction. This will push the bar forward, allowing for telework to become more than just a specialty program and part of the way the government does business.