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

Wed, Apr 23, 2014

This is simply taking away from the employees and reducing human work space and is pathetic! So, we are so bad off, that we should lose our small work cubes, drawers and desks? I don’t think so. You can keep your “hoteling” and ‘room of docking stations’; we will keep our offices, cubes and desks, thank you. Opting to telework part time in our own home office does not constitute reducing our current work environment at all. This would be promoting and creating an inferior, disruptive and demeaning environment. It is discriminatory and counterproductive. We need our desks. We need our personal space. Like anyone needs, thank you This attempt to compress and alter our work space environment is tantamount to herding cattle into a confined corral, and directly opposes and contradicts the Gov. Cultural Transformation effort to create an inclusive workforce and an improved work environment across the Mission Area.

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.

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