How agencies view employee plans To get back to the office, the Office of General Services is looking for ways to support telecommuting among federal employees and reduce the demand for office space for the government.
Andrew Heller, GSA’s Assistant Commissioner for Facilities Management, said the agency plans to roll out at least some of these ancillary services later this year as part of the Workplace 2030 initiative.
GSA, through its Public Buildings Service, manages approximately 371 million square feet of real estate in nearly 9,000 workplaces. The agency owns about 1,700 of them, the rest is leased on behalf of the rental agencies.
But Heller, speaking at a virtual conference hosted by the Association of Government Accountants, said the survey data compiled by the GSA shows that agencies will rely less on office space in the future, which could help reduce the federal real estate footprint.
“Based on the survey data we receive, we think that dependence on physical work will decrease in the future. So it’s really our job to repackage our buildings and optimize our portfolio size in a smart way that makes sense for our clients, taxpayers and the GSA, ”Heller said.
As part of the Workplace 2030 initiative, GSA plans to offer space as a service to agencies later this year, Heller said. As part of this program, GSA will provide a dedicated workplace at GSA headquarters, separate workstations and conference rooms.
The program, he added, will allow agencies to share similar types of office space, which will reduce the cost of designing, building and maintaining that space.
Heller said GSA is developing the Workplace 2030 Initiative based on three broad ideas: Most federal employees can do work anywhere, anytime. Technology can bring colleagues together outside of the physical workplace, and a typical office space must be designed to accommodate specialized work — with an emphasis on employee connectivity and equity.
“What’s the best way to size this space?”
GSA isn’t the only one looking to rethink office space. For example, the Department of Agriculture is conducting a survey among its member agencies to better understand their office space needs, especially if more employees plan to work remotely after the pandemic.
Scott Davis, director of the USDA’s Real Estate and Environmental Administration, said his office will scrutinize the survey results and balance agency space needs with the goal of reducing office space.
“For many years in the government, we have been talking about choosing the right space in order to reduce the footprint. This is really an opportunity now to really take a look at what our portfolio looks like, in both GSA owned and leased buildings and commercial leased buildings, ”Davis said.
As part of this analysis, the USDA will also gain a better understanding of the property it already occupies. Davis said the USDA currently has 4,600 leased offices and is also working with the State Department to analyze its overseas property.
“If we want to embrace this tougher teleworking policy, do we really need all the space we pay for? What’s the best way to size this space? Davis said.
In addition to USDA’s ongoing efforts to review the positions of all agencies Davis said that in order to determine if some of them could be completely virtual, the USDA recently approved a new policy dictating how many workstations should be allocated for employees who work remotely.
“We’ve found that if you work remotely three or more days a week, you may not have a dedicated space on site,” Davis said.
The USDA is running a series of town halls to hear from employees how telecommuting and other flexible workplace options can improve employee morale, mental health, and well-being.
‘Home office in a box’
As part of the Workplace 2030 initiative, the GSA is also considering offering federal employees a “home office in a box” that will give them the ability to equip the home office with the work equipment they need to work, Heller said.
“Basically, you could order the types of things you would have in your agency workplace: a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, maybe a printer, and some other things that you might not have at your disposal. home office, ”Heller said.
According to Heller, in some of the surveys and surveys conducted by GSA, the GSA found this to be a “major obstacle” for a larger proponent of increasing the number of employees to work remotely more often.
“When you work from home, you may not have all the tools that you have at your disposal when you sit in your workplace or office, in your physical workforce,” he said.
Davis said the USDA is conducting an inventory of office supplies in anticipation of more employees requesting equipment that will enable long-term telecommuting.
“These things are definitely something we are planning, and what the financial ramifications of these things will be if we then have to recreate someone’s office at home while keeping the office within the office,” Davis said.
Don Bays, director of BDO’s public sector practice, said agencies can leverage the savings from a small office and channel those savings into IT investments to support better government services on the Internet.
“It’s a bit of a waste of opportunity if all we think about is how we can save money by reducing our impact and not looking at what we are doing as a public sector,” Byes said.
While agencies are taking steps to make the most of their existing office space, Heller said GSA does not expect agencies to rush to close existing leases.
Heller said the vast majority of employment contracts that agencies enter into with the GSA can be terminated with four months’ written notice. But he said agencies probably won’t rush to cancel existing leases.
“We’ve had a few big interrupted projects and a lot of busyness where clients wanted to reclaim space, but not in any meaningful way. At this point, we really think that over the next year or two, agencies and departments will work to sort this out and better understand how their processes will change and how this will affect their physical footprint in real estate.