Office Space

The federal government spends billions of dollars every year to operate and maintain the roughly 273,000 buildings it owns or leases. But we’ve reported for years on problems with how the federal government manages its real estate—in fact, federal real property management has been on our High-Risk list since 2003.

So, has anything changed? How effectively is the government using its real estate assets? Today’s WatchBlog explores our recent work on reducing office space in federal buildings and telework as a space planning tool.

Shrinking the federal footprint

In 2015, the Office of Management and Budget mandated that 24 federal agencies (including DOD) set annual targets for reducing their real estate holdings over a 5-year period. These agencies planned to meet these annual targets primarily by consolidating office and warehouse spaces.

Figure 1: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Headquarters Building’s Consolidation Efforts Include Reducing Cubicle Sizes to Increase Space Utilization

But we found that while most of these agencies reduced their space, not all met their first-year targets by the end of FY 2016.

Majority of Agencies Reduced Space in Fiscal Year 2016
The telework option

OMB also asked these agencies to explore alternatives to acquiring new office space, such as telework. The 23 civilian agencies in our review reported various ways of considering and using telework as a space-planning tool, including:

  • Desk-sharing for telework employees to relinquish leased space
  • Implementing smaller or unassigned workstations

Figure 1: A Telework Scenario That Can Increase Space Efficiency or Reduce Space

But these agencies also reported challenges to telework—such as human capital issues, mission suitability, and measuring telework’s cost savings. And most of these agencies wanted additional information or assistance on using telework as a strategic tool.

We recommended that the General Services Administration develop and share updated guidance to help agencies improve their utilization of federal space.


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