Mobile federal workforce allows for space efficiency

Behind employee costs, real estate is the largest operational cost to most agencies.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed in its Nov. 17 report on federal real property five agencies either exploring “hoteling” programs or increasing their telework programs. Under a hoteling system, employees no longer have a permanent work station, an effort intended to increase space efficiency.

GAO picked to review the Agriculture Department, the General Services Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. All were selected because they either have adopted best practices that support a more mobile workforce or they have high levels of real property holdings.

GSA is one agency that has embraced the hoteling system; in its new renovated space at 1800 F Street, the agency is using open, innovative space to create a more collaborative work environment. GSA estimates it will save $24 million in rent by consolidating into one building.


The five agencies in GAO’s review reported holding or leasing more than 400 million square feet of office space in fiscal year 2011.

Three different areas were examined in the report: actions taken by agencies as a result of an increasingly mobile workforce; GSA’s role in advising agencies on methods to reduce space; and factors agencies and the private sector view as important to achieving space efficiency.

According to the report, the process of embracing more space efficiency came down to two factors: gathering information about the current use of office space and gaining the support of management and employees.

“By measuring how existing space is being used, organizations are better positioned to determine their future space needs,” the report said. “Similarly, by taking steps to obtain the support of leadership and employees, organizations can help facilitate the acceptance of mobility initiatives.”

Teleworking is not always an appropriate approach, the report said. Some workers either prefer to work in an office for personal reasons or the nature of their role doesn’t allow for telework.


Agency leaders from all five agencies told GAO officials they are pursuing actions to reduce their space needs and be more efficient. These changes, agency leaders pointed out, are dependent upon a more mobile workforce and introducing hoteling systems in government buildings.

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