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Future workforce will have less office space, more mobility

In the future, the concept of telework and mobility in the federal workplace will go far beyond having just laptops, according to a senior General Services Administration official who spoke at a panel discussion on mobility.

Speaking at one of the sessions at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., GSA CIO Casey Coleman highlighted how mobility is going to be a key in helping her department reduce its real estate footprint. However, having a more mobile workforce will help from a bigger perspective as well, she pointed out.

“For us, the business case for mobility is not about just the [return on investment] on the IT investments; it’s really about the ROI on the initiative of the business of the whole agency,” Coleman said.

Part of the process involves bringing in more technology, including lightweight devices and ubiquitous wireless connectivity, Coleman said. But there’s more to it than that. Some employees will have to accept that they won’t have a dedicated workspace, as hoteling becomes increasingly more common, she said.

“This is not necessarily a new concept, but for the federal government it is kind of a new, different approach,” Coleman said. “You’ll have a mobility system where you sign up for your workspace or your team can sign up for a workspace. What this means is that it goes beyond having just laptops.”

Panel moderator Tom Temin, co-host of The Federal Drive on Federal News Radio, asked Coleman what would happen is someone, for example, left behind an iPad in the hoteling space: “Is it finders keepers, losers weepers?” he asked.

“It’s ‘If you lose it, we’ll wipe it!’” Coleman deadpanned, drawing a laugh from the audience.

GSA’s Denver office has been looking at what kind of work the agency’s mobile workforce does and what kind of work environment employees need, Coleman said. Two work styles that emerged were those of the Camels and the Eagles.

The Camels are people who want equipment and devices “and to carry stuff,” she said. The Eagles, on the other hand, are characterized by those who use “whatever lightweight products they can carry with them because they don’t want to be burden with a lot of equipment,” Coleman explained.

“I think it’s very important to be thinking about what kind of work employees do because one size does not fit all,” Coleman said.

When asked about her thoughts on whether there will ever be a consolidation of mobile devices -- a smart phone for telephony, a tablet for communications -- Coleman brought up the concept of bringing your own device into the federal workplace.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever get down to just one device but I do think it’s technically feasible to get to a place where any device is acceptable,” she said. “It can be a policy choice rather than necessity as to what kind of technology devices we’re going to providing to users. One policy could be bring your own [device] or the agency provides a stipend for you to purchase whatever is your most optimized productivity device.”

Posted on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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Reader comments

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 Sam Davis

Interesting article. GSA CIO Casey Coleman makes a good point in that mobility can have a positive impact not only on an agency’s real estate footprint, but on the ROI of the agency as a whole, and how the agency’s employees deliver results. It’s true that ‘one size does not fit all,’ and as we move toward more mobility and telework, it is essential that we think through and integrate the new skills needed by this mobile workforce into our training and development programs.

Sam Davis, VP, AMA Enterprise Government Solutions

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