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It's about more than where you sit

gsa atrium

The atrium of GSA's headquarters building. (GSA photo)

Readers offered some strong commentary on sources quoted in a Sept. 25 FCW article that outlined contractor concerns about GSA's new headquarters renovation and telework policy.

One reader wrote: Did our genius friends that polled a "handful" of contractors give any thought to logical reasons behind a longer lead time for communications or modifications? Moving from VA to DC does not happen overnight and it takes a few days to pack up for the move. Unpacking is just as time consuming. I'm not sure I care about the perceptions of nameless contractors.

Another said: Why are we concerned with what contractors think about government employees' seating arrangements? We are still available via telephone and email as before. Our administrator has been accomplishing what he had been tasked with by the White House. Yes, I am a GSA employee and we do a fine job for the taxpayers!

Mark Rockwell responds: To say this story is only about seating arrangements misses a larger point. The story is about profound shifts for every GSA worker and the effects of those changes on the outside world.

GSA's bold efforts to radically, and innovatively, change its employees' work environment -- including the locations they work from -- are bound to have some initial challenges. These same kinds of changes have rocked the everyday operations of large private corporations the last few years as they implemented similar policies. The reported difficulties aren't a reflection on whether GSA employees are effective or not.

Big, notable companies on the leading edge of workspace innovation, from Best Buy to Yahoo!, have struggled mightily with telework policies in the last year. I didn't bring up Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer's decision to rescind her company's telework policy lightly. It illustrated the current struggle corporations are having with flexible-workplace issues. Yahoo! and Best Buy ultimately chose to end their telework programs.

Those decisions, however, don't necessarily predict the fate of GSA's efforts. Meyer later told a workplace convention that her decision applied only to her company and shouldn't be held up as an example for every organization implementing flex-work programs.

It can take some time to make small things -- like how to reserve meeting spaces -- routine once again, when operating with a slew of new procedures and locations. Having to work from home or share desks are challenges for any organization, its workers, customers and contractors. For some, it's an upheaval; for others, a bump in the road.

Posted by Mark Rockwell on Sep 30, 2013 at 8:59 AM


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