With a new WeWork contract, federal gov is breaking into the coworking game - Technical.ly DC

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With a new WeWork contract, federal gov is breaking into the coworking game

We know what you're thinking, but no, it doesn't mean Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be rolling up to your neighborhood coworking spot for coffee and sparkling water on tap. Instead, it's likely a talent retention strategy.

WeWork's K Street space in DC.

(Courtesy photo)

With the uncertainty of the fall, companies across the country have been ditching their office contracts in favor of coworking spaces to give employees the option of hybrid work. And the latest bandwagon jumper is none other than the federal government itself.

National coworking network WeWork announced today that it had managed to land a flexible working contract with none other than the U.S. General Services Administration. The contract, which starts off with one base year but could continue to four one-year renewal options, asks the company to provide flexible, hybrid working options to employees of the agency across the country.

This push toward coworking, WeWork Head of Federal Sales Daniel Matthews said, comes from the broader shift to telework the federal government (and, ya know, everyone) has experienced over the past year. The resulting embrace of virtual and hybrid work options leaves a lot up in the air for future plans, he said, which is why flexible options are appealing.

“When you’ve got uncertainty and real estate portfolios, when you’re a large occupier of real estate, you need flexible tools, and this is really their effort to create a flexible tool for them,” Matthews told Technical.ly.

WeWork and the federal government are still in talks of how the contract will play out, but Matthews said the offerings will be available for government employees nationwide. The agreement has a maximum value of $50 million worth of space and desks over five years. WeWork was selected from 28 bidders, and was one of five awarded a contract by the GSA. EXPANSIVE, The Yard, Deskpass and LiquidSpace also received contracts.

The GSA sought out the coworking space contracts after it equipped a large amount of its workers with the ability to work from home.

“This shift in capability has resulted in greater flexibility and mission response across the Federal Government,” GSA wrote in its solicitation. “GSA is seeking nationwide Flexible Coworking Services (FCS) solutions that provide federal employees with flexible workspace solutions in order to occupy only the space needed in order to meet their missions and promote a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

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But on top of the investment already spent, Matthews said, he expects the flexible work trend at the federal level to continue due to its appeal. Having a coworking option will help the government compete with the appeal of private sector jobs that typically come with more perks. Coworking and flexible working options are something employee unions are interested in negotiating as well, he said.

“In very expensive markets, it’s hard to hire and retain federal employees,” Matthews said. “It’s difficult to compete with private sector talent, and so flexibility choices for their workforce is a big, appealing selling point for recruiting retentions.”

WeWork managed to nab a contract, Matthews thinks, in part because of its sheer scale and ability to provide spaces pretty much anywhere you could think of, which might even open up living options for government employees. And with its selling points so far, the telework trend could continue throughout federal government agencies.

“All the signs are there that they like this to continue, because you’ve got a federal government with a workforce that’s turning over and they don’t have all the compensation tools that private sector has to compete for talent,” he said. “So I think that this is an increasing value proposition for agencies to attract that talent.”

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