Give Up Your Office Space, Federal Teleworkers

Effective mobility requires moving beyond real estate, CIO says.

Mobility holds a great deal of promise for the federal government, but federal leaders and employees must be willing to sacrifice some of their personal office space in order to realize mobility’s full potential, one CIO said last week.

“As federal organizations, we are still inordinately attached to real estate,” said Rick Holgate, CIO and assistant director for science and technology at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at Mobile Work Exchange’s fall town hall meeting on Thursday. “[ATF] as an organization has a huge amount of real estate still, even though frankly most of our workforce -- if they’re being productive -- is nowhere near an office. Yet we’re still paying for a huge footprint of real estate because … we haven’t found a way to overcome some of the cultural inertia that leads us to maintain office space that isn’t being used all that frequently.”

Holgate pointed to two recent studies by AOL Government and MeriTalk that both came to similar conclusions that mobility could not only improve productivity but also reduce real estate and transportation costs. Another recent estimate showed that mobility could save as much as $12 billion per year, he said.

Overcoming the real estate hurdle also may require agencies to rethink their definition of telework, Holgate said.

“It’s not about recreating the office experience somewhere else,” he said. “It’s about thinking differently about how we get work done. We need to do more work as a federal government in how we define telework.”

Mobility also is creating a federal workforce that is no longer defined by a specific organization, Holgate added. “We’re thinking about working much more broadly across organizational boundaries and working with individuals outside and our organizations having ready and immediate access to those people, resources and expertise,” he said. “That’s changing our mindset as well.”

One such example is an effort by agencies like the Defense, Homeland Security and Justice departments to develop a baseline of standard security requirements for mobile devices, Holgate said. “It’s encouraging to see agencies work together to find those commonalities and find opportunities for common solutions,” he said, adding that these cross-agency efforts perhaps have not gotten the attention they deserve.