Telecommuting: a US government agency invited to share its ideas on the future of federal offices

By Jack Aldane on 09/12/2022 | Updated on 09/12/2022

The US General Services Administration (GSA) has been asked to do more to help federal government agencies prepare for post-COVID changes to the federal official domain.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, 19 of 24 agencies surveyed said they plan to reduce the square footage of their real estate portfolios due to the rise of remote working during the pandemic.

However, the GAO found that the GSA, the organization in charge of federal leases and landlord federal spaces, responsible for 1,500 of the more than 19,500 buildings owned by the US federal government, did not share data collected as part of pilot projects to assess the use of office space. data he had collected. It also did not share information on collection costs that could help federal agencies decide whether to undertake their own space utilization exercises.

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This is despite the GAO report stating that the GSA was “accustomed to sharing real estate planning information with federal agencies through reports, webinars, and its agency’s website.” Some 13 of the 24 agencies surveyed by GAO said the data could be useful in their planning, although all expressed concerns about the costs of data collection. As a result, most of the vast majority of them (20 out of 24) said they collected “little or no data on the use of space”.

The GAO concluded, “By not planning to share this information more widely, the GSA is missing an opportunity to provide a clear understanding of how the potential costs of collecting this data might be offset by the long-term benefits, including potential savings from discounts. in future annual rents, maintenance and other operating costs. »

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This is despite the GAO stating that the GSA was “accustomed to sharing real estate planning information with federal agencies through reports, webinars, and its website.” Some 13 of the 24 agencies surveyed by GAO said the data could be useful in their planning, although all expressed concerns about the costs of data collection. As a result, most of the vast majority of them (20 out of 24) said they collected “little or no data on the use of space”.

The GAO concluded, “By not planning to share this information more widely, the GSA is missing an opportunity to provide a clear understanding of how the potential costs of collecting this data might be offset by the long-term benefits, including potential savings from discounts. in future annual rents, maintenance and other operating costs. »

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Robin Carnahan, a GSA Administrator, suggested that, per the GAO’s recommendation, the GSA develop a plan to share this idea with agencies.

The office space reduction plan comes despite President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in March this year pledging most federal workers to ‘work in person again’ . Decisions and details on this are made by individual agencies, based on guidelines from the White House.

The GAO report was also timed to coincide with Dec. 16, when federal agencies must submit their capital plans for the 2024-2028 fiscal year to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Federal Council. real estate.

This follows a memo sent to agencies by OMB Director Shalanda Young advising them to develop plans that maximize the benefits of flexible working models.

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