GSA encourages mobility to reduce real estate needs

vacant desk

The Total Workplace program will modernize the federal workforce while reducing costs for office space and energy, GSA argues. (Stock image)

The General Services Administration wants to reduce office space and increase energy efficiency across the federal government by encouraging agencies to embrace a more mobile workforce.

The departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department's statistics office already implemented GSA's Total Workplace initiative that they say will save a projected total of more than $70 million.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is projecting $3 million in savings through the elimination of 72,000 square feet of office space. Under the program, GSA can help agencies select sustainable materials and develop energy saving strategies.

"We are replacing buildings built around hierarchies from an era where people used the telegraph with workspaces more suited to today's world," GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini said in a news release. "The kind of open office environment that Total Workplace creates encourages collaboration and cooperation that in turn leads to better services for the American people. By using our space more efficiently, we also save valuable taxpayer dollars."

The initiative is not just about telework. Other strategies include desk sharing and office consolidation.

GSA is also trying to lead by example. Its new headquarters building was remodeled to accommodate more employees on less square footage, saving the agency $24 million in leasing fees annually.

"Total Workplace gives federal workers access to the technology they need to accomplish their missions not only effectively, but also efficiently," said Charles Hardy, GSA's chief Total Workplace officer. "Today's workforce demands the tools necessary to work anywhere, anytime. Reducing the federal footprint gives agencies appropriate work spaces to get the job done together, while encouraging mobility."

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Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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Reader comments

Tue, Sep 24, 2013 Ray

I love the concept of "shared" workspaces, wonder if Dan has his own private office or if he shares. Where do you store your information? What do you do with classified information? Your "tools"? I know that in the dream world there is no paper, but in reality there is a lot of paper in the Fed that has to be kept handy.

Someone mentioned that it appears to be a new form of cube farm – may be good for the folks back in DC and other places who do not do anything but virtual paper and do not care about security, but for many of us in the field, another roadblock to getting the job done efficiently and securely.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013

Fred is only mentioning part of the problem with the Feds giving up real estate. What happens in reality is that the property remains vacate for near a decade, if not more, before they finally work up a way to sell it. Meanwhile it either rots (& loses value) or the taxpayers are on the hook for a decade to keep up an empty building - even when there is a local demand in the private sector to take and use the building. I have seen it happen multiple where I work and heard of it happening many other places.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 Kate Lister United States

I got a tour of the GSA 1800F building last week and was in awe. Great to see all these savings! We just released a white paper on the ROI of Telework in Government that shows this is just the tip of the iceberg. Government-wide roll-out could save $11 billion a year. Keep up all your good work guys.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 Fed Emp1

I'm all for telework from home or a reduced space but I am wondering what will be done with the Government-owned buildings we no longer need. Yes, the easy answer is that they're sold to the private sector. But the more accurate answer is that it's not an easy answer. Besides the fact that the current real estate market in many areas are not conducive to such sales, many Government buildings are historic landmarks OR are so old and 'specialized', that they are not desirable to private industry. This has been demonstrated by PBS when attempting to sale Government buildings in the past. As I mentioned, I'm for this initiative but I believe the Government may be strapped with unoccupied buildings for which they must provide upkeep and pay fees.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 Department of Education

Two thoughts - Are federal agencies prepared to supply laptops as the default computers for staff? Right now they do not at my agency. That means that the money that my agency will save if I telework is based on the assumption that I'll buy and maintain an appropriate computer, printer, and storage backup device. It assumes I'll absorb all the cost of the high speed Internet and be willing to maintain a larger residence so I can set aside a dedicated workspace. Finally, at my agency, the IT staff have been unable to consistently maintain access to the servers for those working from home. So do we pay out to IT contractors what we saved on building leases? In these articles about open workspace and productivity, I rarely see reference to Susan Cain's bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts. In that book she reviewed numerous studies showing that there is a loss of productivity for many employees when you set up these open work spaces. She also reviewed some of the many studies which have shown that group brainstorming leads to poorer quality ideas and reduced productivity for all but the most superficial projects. How about an article that asks GSA to address some of these issues?

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