The concept of “hybrid work” is getting a lot of attention in the press these days. While many companies are trying to determine the right mix of remote and in-office presence for their employees, the same challenges are faced by government agencies. There’s also broad lack of understanding everywhere on the best ways to support a hybrid workforce to achieve improvements in both productivity and office space optimization.
What we’ve learned at Cisco based on our 15+ years of experience is the formula for happier, healthier, more impactful workers. We’ve also leveraged new technologies to significantly improve the sustainability and power efficiency of office spaces. While Cisco has been showcasing these technologies at our PENN1 office in New York City for over a year now, I’m thrilled to announce our opportunity to work with the Washington, DC based General Services Administration. For readers outside of the Federal market, the GSA is the agency within the U.S. Government charged with managing most office space for nearly every Federal agency. With over 8600 buildings under management, they are the largest property manager in the United States.
On January 25th 2023, they officially opened their new Workplace Innovation Lab (WIL) at their headquarters building on at 1800 F Street in Washington, DC. This Federal co-working facility offers agency leaders the opportunity to test, experience, and evaluate both office layouts and furnishings from five leading furniture vendors. Common across the WIL are the supporting network, security, and collaboration technologies that bring hybrid work to life. Better than just a “sitting in the chair experience” that you might get at a furniture store, guests can evaluate a complete, fully configured, and fully technology-enabled office area that can be reserved hours or even days at a time. There’s no better way to determine what’s best for their own team than visiting the WIL.
One key area about the WIL is its focus on sustainability. Buildings are one of the key users of energy, but one element being shown at the WIL is the combined use of Power-over-Ethernet (using Cisco switches) to create a “DC microgrid” and solar window film technologies. The solar film (developed by GoOPV) serves two purposes – generating electricity and providing shade to reduce heat gain in the building. The solar film is connected to simple and low-cost battery packs and the electricity is then distributed via Power-Over-Ethernet. At the WIL the interior low-voltage lighting is then powered from the switches. By eliminating the need for multiple AC-DC and DC-AC conversions, it saves up to 18% of the power needed for lighting and other purposes.
Another benefit to using low-voltage lighting powered by PoE is that simple (and cheap) Ethernet cable can be used instead of far more expensive armored “BX” cable which requires significant amounts of steel and copper. Based on our own experience renovating our NYC office at “PENN1” we were able to save about 4000 lbs of steel and 265 lbs of copper per 25K sq feet of space.
The reduction on heating/cooling load is harder to quantify and depends on many factors, but unlike window shades, the solar film doesn’t cut off all the light from an office, making the space more open and welcoming.
As the WIL is intended to host employees from many government agencies, cyber security and FedRAMP certifications are critical requirements. We’ve installed our Software-Defined Access solution, a combination of fast Wi-Fi (using the latest Wi-Fi6E access points), our Gigabit Ethernet switches, and the Cisco Identity Services Engine to provide network segmentation – ensuring that each agency’s information is secure. Our FedRAMP authorized solutions will continue to evolve to meet the unique requirements of each government impact level.
Collaboration and Engagement
One key element we’ve come to understand from our experience in hybrid work is that everyone – especially remote workers – need to feel fully included in a meeting. To achieve that we’ve installed various Cisco collaboration devices throughout the WIL. By offering 4K video and high-performance audio, every meeting can be as close to face-face as possible. Plus, with “face framing” technology every in-office participant appears to the remote viewers as in their own window, making it easy to see who is talking. Read more on reimagining workspaces from Cisco SVP & GM of Collaboration Devices Snorre Kjesbu.
Ready to learn more?
Obviously, the Workplace Innovation Lab is only for Federal government use, but if you’re an employee I’d recommend reaching out directly to your GSA contact to schedule a meeting. Everyone else is welcome to tour one of our facilities, especially our New York City office to see what is possible in spaces that are purposely designed for hybrid work.