The Senate’s Pandemic Federal Telework Act would put federal employees on maximum telework status until HHS declares the public health emergency from the pandemic is over. Whether that happens or not, agencies are rethinking what their footprints look like.
Angela Styles, Partner at Akin Gump and a member of the Public Buildings Reform Board, told “Government Matters” the pandemic has presented an opportunity to approach federal real estate differently.
“I think the government needs to alter the way that it looks at this completely,” she said. She explained that property the government disposes of can be used for purposes other than just office buildings, like housing for the homeless.
To determine the best fit for a piece of property, the government can talk to members of Congress and local communities. According to Styles, “our federal government is just not good at that.” She said the government can use private sector practices and take risks to think about real estate in a new way.
Styles explained that the Public Buildings Reform Board makes recommendations on what should be done with properties, but it is really up to GSA to assess the real estate and continue the process from there.
There are excellent leasing employees at GSA who do know private sector practices, Styles pointed out, and with all the real estate the government has, “I think you can really come up with excellent solutions, maybe even lead beyond what the private sector does in terms of making sure that you have a safe, comfortable working environment when people do have to physically be there.”
COVID-19 has led to uncertainty about what office spaces will look like in the future, but Styles believes agencies should start to think about it now. “I think we’ve obviously learned a lot about the transmission of diseases, and I think for the long term, it’ll be something else … so it’s time to start thinking now,” said Styles.