Hoteling: Sharing more than Space

The workplace is different today than it was even a few years ago; technological advances and upgrades allow more workers to use mobile work. Factor in travel and annual leave, and it’s rare that federal buildings are at full capacity. The old bricks-and-mortar model of creating a fixed workspace for every employee is costly and inefficient.

In March 2013 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidance on freezing the federal workspace footprint. As the federal government’s landlord, GSA closely monitors the federal real estate inventory and is piloting some interesting options to follow this directive, including using hoteling technology to make existing workspace in its Washington, DC buildings more efficient.

Here’s how hoteling works: rather than having an assigned desk, workers reserve their workspaces using booking software. The technology categorizes workspaces into asset classes that can be booked on demand; e.g., conference rooms, small collaborative spaces, or individual cubicles. People can select the space–and the location in the building–that best meets their needs depending on their work and the size of their team.

With robust hoteling technology, GSA’s renovated Washington, D.C. headquarters will support more than twice as many workers as the originally configured space ever did. We are confident in this approach because our research indicates that offices are utilized at about 50 percent on a given day due to normal factors such as leave, travel, and out of office meetings. Hoteling works best in flexible space that can support it – so GSA’s headquarters building is open and collaborative, with multipurpose furniture that is easily movable and adjustable. Benefits include increased collaboration, reduced real estate costs, and improved energy utilization.

Other government agencies are successfully hoteling too. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had more than 2,600 patent examiners participating in its Patent Hoteling Program (PHP), according to its report titled “The Patent Hoteling Program is Succeeding as a Business Strategy.” PHP reported real estate cost savings and boosts in productivity. PHP participants spent 66.3 more hours a year examining patents, which translates to 3.5 more patent applications per employee a year, because “they use less sick and administrative leave and charge less time to administrative tasks.” (The report notes that more patent applications reviewed means more revenue for USPTO.)

Last April, The Wall Street Journal reported that roughly 20 percent of American Express’ employees in New York City are hoteling, and the London and Singapore offices are following suit. Other companies, like GlaxoSmithKline and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are hoteling to save money and maximize space.

The federal government can learn a lot by emulating industry when it makes sense, and hoteling is one trend that definitely meets that standard. GSA is sharing our expertise to help other government agencies operate space more efficiently by reducing energy and utility costs and using their workspace more efficiently.