- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office started operating a “hoteling” program last month that allows patent examiners to telecommute from home four days a week and use a shared office space on the fifth day.

Other federal agencies are monitoring the program as a means of reducing their need for leased office space.

“Ultimately, if hoteling becomes the norm, there wouldn’t be as much need for expansion space,” said Jo-Anne Barnard, senior adviser to the Patent and Trademark Office’s chief administrative officer.

She spoke on federal government real estate contracting at a conference yesterday at Union Station sponsored by real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

Although real estate representatives talked about how to lease more space to the government, Mrs. Barnard discussed ways to make the most of what the government already has.

“The federal government is going to continue to grow,” said Marvin Hill, vice president of GMAC Commercial Mortgage.

The Patent and Trademark Office is one of the government’s fastest-growing agencies. It plans to add 1,000 examiners per year to its staff of 7,400 employees for the next four years to help clear up a backlog of patent applications.

About 500 of those employees each year are scheduled to be assigned to the hoteling program. For traditional telecommuting, employees have their own work space at their main office for when they need it. With hoteling, many employees share a work space.

The programs are called hoteling because employees must reserve a work space in the way a hotel guest makes a room reservation.

The Patent and Trademark Office plans to add to its hoteling program as long as the quality of work is not compromised, Mrs. Barnard said.

Among the 4,300 patent examiners, 78 are hoteling as of this week. The agency is adding another 40 every two weeks.

Each employee is given a computer for his or her home office. Employees reserve space at the Patent and Trademark Office’s Alexandria campus one day per week to interview applicants and attorneys, receive training, attend meetings or use on-site resources.

The hoteling program was tested beginning in 1997, with almost 50 trademark employees.

“They loved it,” Mrs. Barnard said.

In addition to trying to improve employee morale and reduce automobile traffic, the Patent and Trademark Office seeks to avoid a squeeze on its office space.

The agency moved from Crystal City to its five-building, 2-million-square-foot complex beginning in December 2003. By the end of this year, nearly all the office space will be used, Mrs. Barnard said.

In other news …

• Real estate investment trust Trizec Properties said it is redesigning the Victor Building at Ninth and H streets Northwest, one of the District’s oldest office buildings, with “high-end amenities.” The redesign of the 343,000-square-foot building by architects of SmithGroup is supposed to include a new lobby and rooftop terrace. Major tenants are the Smithsonian Institution, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail [email protected]

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