GSA opens workplace innovation lab, a coworking space for federal employees

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan speaks at an event on Jan. 25 debuting the agency's new coworking space, the Workplace Innovation Lab.

GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan speaks at an event on Jan. 25 debuting the agency's new coworking space, the Workplace Innovation Lab. GSA

The new lab within the General Services Administration’s headquarters features state-of-the-art office technology and furniture crafted to help reimagine federal agencies' future of workspaces

The General Services Administration debuted its Workplace Innovation Lab on Tuesday, offering a sprawling, reimagined federal co-working space for agencies’ employees to gain insights on new developments in office sustainability. 

The 25,000-square-foot-space, located in GSA's headquarters, provides a modern-style office for co-working, meetings and business events. GSA partnered with six vendors, including Cisco, for the first iteration of the lab, which will be updated each year with the latest commercial furniture and technology offerings available for federal agencies.

”The future of the office workplace is now. We’re imagining it and building it right here in partnership with both industry innovators and our federal customers,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement. 

Public Buildings Service Commissioner Nina Albert told reporters at the opening of the lab that the goal was not only to provide a working space for federal employees, but to make federal work spaces more people-friendly and inviting as agencies implement return-to-work policies.

“The biggest trend of why people are coming back into the workplace is to be with other people,” Albert said, adding that “the future for the federal portfolio is fewer buildings, but better buildings.”

Federal employees can book reservations for private conference rooms or spaces within the lab via GSA’s website at no cost throughout 2023, as GSA pilots the lab as a coworking space and showroom for agencies that wish to procure new furniture and equipment for their offices.

The space offers a wide variety of workplace designs and features sensors throughout the entire office to provide visitors with information about occupancy, reservation times, temperature, air quality and other climate data within the building. GSA will collect feedback throughout the pilot and share that information with industry to better support agency needs, according to GSA Chief Architect Chuck Hardy.

The office appears similar to many commercial shared working spaces in major cities across the country, with kitchens that offer a range of snacks and beverages, comfortable sofas and reclining chairs, state-of-the-art web conferencing technology and advanced climate control functions. 

Some spaces are fully sound-proof and small enough for one person to comfortably fit for a phone call or meeting, whereas others feature farm table-style seating and enough area for multiple guests to join an event. 

The six vendors involved in the first iteration of the lab include Allsteel, Cisco, Haworth / Price Modern, Miller-Knoll, Kimball International and Swiftspace / VOE. Each vendor has some of their commercial furniture and technology offerings on display and available for use across the lab, from adjustable desks and soundproof phone rooms to entire conference areas with some of the latest web conferencing technology on the market.

The lab is part of GSA's federal coworking space pilot, an initiative the agency launched to make government working spaces more human-centered and sustainable. Earlier this week, GSA offered guidance for agencies on how to implement return-to-work policies that suggested tracking space utilization, facilitating a hybrid work environment and providing networking opportunities.