Coworking initiative responds to changing workplace needs
In May 2023, General Services Administration Region 6 learned it was selected to host one of only six developmental federal coworking sites, and it was scheduled to open in Kansas City over the summer.
This triggered a flurry of on-the-ground space, process and customer communication preparations, building on the conceptualization and planning from the previous several months.
(R6 coworking space pictured, right)
Officially opened at the end of August, federal employees in Kansas City can now test out GSA's new coworking initiative. The site is being promoted as part of the Workplace 2030 initiative.
The intent is that federal agencies will utilize the coworking space provided and then take a survey to gauge their interest in taking advantage of these shared spaces.
The coworking sites and survey will help GSA test and assess the spaces’ design, technologies and operations in a federal environment and inform their future workplace offerings.
In Region 6, Client Solutions Branch Chief & Regional Service Delivery Officer Leslie LaMar Rushing has been instrumental in planning and executing the coworking space at the regional office building.
LaMar Rushing (pictured, left) is one of two people in R6 who make up the federal coworking core team. Regional Workplace Executive Allyson Sawatzke (pictured, right) is the other lead along with another 15 people who operate in core and support roles. “Plus, support from regional leadership, OSC and others has been critical and greatly appreciated,” LaMar Rushing said.
LaMar Rushing emphasized that this has been an intricate process involving many different people in and out of the region.
For R6, LaMar Rushing noted, the PBS workplace team and PBS account management teams worked together to deliver and support federal coworking.
She also stressed how impactful OAS has been in supporting the federal coworking effort. OAS Workplace Services is not part of the federal coworking program but they support the initiative with the same services that are provided to PBS/FAS/SSO personnel that operate in the R6 ROB office space. Some of the services provided are ensuring availability of supplies (pen, notebook, etc.), helping with a day-use locker that has dead batteries, providing the current GSA Guest Wifi password, and functions of this nature.
“Making federal coworking a reality in Kansas City has been a challenging and rewarding undertaking,” LaMar Rushing said. “The team researched client agency desires and use cases, coordinated space and IT needs, developed processes and protocols, and prepared and delivered customer communication.”
LaMar Rushing stressed that the work is ongoing. “We are continuously working to spread the word about federal coworking to Kansas City customer agencies, tour groups through the space, recruit and schedule participants, and collect agency feedback.”
One of the first customer agencies to tour and try the space was the Region 7 Environmental Protection Agency, currently housed at the former Applebee’s International Inc. headquarters in Lenexa.EPA R7 Security, Safety, and Facilities Management Branch Chief Eric Gibbs was one of the team members who participated in the first tour. He found that the federal coworking space was something his team could use going forward.
“For us, I could see a good application here for offsite meetings," Gibbs said. "A lot of our branches or divisions will hold annual or quarterly meetings that they will go off-site. What is appealing about this (coworking space is) there is no cost to use it, it's a nice space, and it provides an area that makes it easy to collaborate.”
This is a response that LaMar Rushing and her team were hoping for. But it's just a first step for her and the team as they collect feedback on what they can do to appeal to potential customer agencies.
“The ultimate goal is to leverage the federal coworking shared-space, shared-cost model to help agencies reduce their dedicated footprints and, therefore, the rental costs to the government and taxpayer,” LaMar Rushing said. “The hope is that when agencies know they can surge and flex into coworking space on their highest occupancy days, we can partner with them to further reduce and optimize their individual footprints.”
This major undertaking is something that LaMar Rushing truly supports.
“I'm very proud that federal coworking is a program that truly responds to recent changes in how the federal government works, leverages existing underutilized space, and has tremendous long-term savings potential for the American taxpayer.”