The old saying “change is good” has particular resonance at GSA, where we’ve been implementing a steady stream of workplace innovations for some time. Our embrace of technology solutions puts us at the forefront of the federal government, and our employees have adopted modern methods of working that are a model for the rest of the federal workforce. We call this initiative Total Workplace.
In short, GSA’s Total Workplace creates a 21st century workplace, designed to save money and increase efficiency and productivity. We are reducing office space, fostering collaboration, better managing IT spending, and increasing energy efficiency for ourselves and helping other federal agencies to do the same. In turn, our customer agencies are able to invest more in their missions and better serve the American people.
The leading edge of this change is technology, which has altered the way we all work. The nature of work has changed; no longer do we sit in our desks all day long. We are constantly collaborating with colleagues, customers, and other partners, and we need access to our tools and documents wherever that collaboration occurs. Our research indicates that, on average, an employee spends less than 40% of their work time seated at their desk, and the remainder is spent away from the desk, connecting with others and working in a mobile situation.
We’ve changed the entire workspace to meet today’s demands. To ensure collaboration, we’ve eliminated walls, creating an open and transparent environment. The walls that do exist often double as whiteboards, so imagination and innovation are within easy reach. Employees can book their workspace with an online reservation system, selecting a quiet space for concentrative work or a space with their team for collaborative work. With mobile apps, cloud-based tools, lightweight devices and wireless access throughout the office, we can go where our work takes us and never miss a beat.
The benefits to the workplace and the bottom line are clear: GSA’s headquarters building in downtown Washington, DC has been reborn as a modern, mobile, open work environment, collapsing the rents of six buildings into one and saving $24.4 million annually in the process – a 26% reduction over pre-renovation costs.
Now, imagine those savings government-wide – keeping in mind that the federal government owns $10 billion worth of real estate. Already, several government agencies have joined GSA’s Total Workplace project, with stunning results: one division of the Agriculture Department will collapse 43 state offices into 12 regional locations, creating significant savings; the Department of Health and Human Services will adopt Total Workplace in Seattle and save more than $15 million in real estate costs over 10 years; the Department of Homeland Security has increased teleworking, reduced rented space with subleasing, and adopted desk sharing, resulting in projected savings of $55 million in lowered real estate costs; and the US Fish & Wildlife Service will consolidate three buildings in Northern Virginia, saving taxpayers more than $3 million annually in real estate costs.
It’s important to note, though, that it’s not just eliminating office space that’s important – what goes into the space matters too. Reducing the carbon footprint is imperative, as is utilizing green building technologies and methods, like using sustainable materials, incorporating daylighting strategies, and saving on water. Those infrastructure changes coupled with the technology today’s mobile worker uses ensures effective and efficient operations all around: A recent survey found that 61% of workers say real estate and facilities always have an impact on organizational productivity.
Redesigning the workplace isn’t quick and easy, but GSA’s experience demonstrates that when Total Workplace is implemented, benefits accrue almost immediately – increased utilization, reduced costs, and less wasted space, plus a people-based organizational culture. And those are changes that are good.