Our first annual Sustainability Report, detailing 2023 performance, is now available. View Here

Our 2023 Sustainability Report is now available. View Here

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3 Ways the Government Is Using Real Estate More Efficiently 

Grand, lavish office buildings have long been symbols of an organization’s importance, success, and influence. The most prominent organizations occupied the most—or best—real estate. But with the ubiquity of hybrid work, entire floors of these facilities have sat empty or underutilized for months or even years, turning many extravagant offices into symbols of inefficiency and waste.

As pandemic-related concerns waned, the federal government, like many other large employers, faced significant pressure to abandon remote and hybrid work as a “COVID-era” concession. However, the normalization of hybrid work and its associated benefits (including improved flexibility, satisfaction, and retention) have made it an expectation among knowledge workers who can perform their duties from home. Even some of the most prestigious organizations in the world have struggled to push the reset button and get employees back in the office full-time. And since hybrid work has by and large proven not to have any negative impact on productivity (many studies actually demonstrate an increase), government agencies are focusing on reducing costs through the new model, rather than returning to the past.

Hybrid work has enabled organizations across industries to rethink their relationship with real estate and reconsider its impact on their operational efficiency. Some organizations have abandoned physical offices altogether and pocketed the real estate savings. Others have used alternative workplaces like flexible office spaces to serve their more distributed workforces. But most government agencies don’t have the ability to operate fully remotely, and with security clearances, government workers can’t set up shop in just any office building. Still, despite having more guardrails than corporations, federal and state government agencies have been making major real estate changes that enable them to operate more efficiently.

Here are three ways the government is leveraging hybrid work to use their real estate more effectively.

1. Downsizing real estate portfolios

The US government spends billions of dollars annually in lease payments, utilities, and facilities maintenance. These costs can be justified if they’re necessary to support the work of enough employees. But when a critical mass of government knowledge workers are fully remote or hybrid, that excess space is no longer essential, nor is it worth hanging onto for future growth. Government agencies may not be able to flip a switch and go fully remote, but they can rent or buy more appropriately-sized facilities, significantly lowering their operating costs.

Many state and federal agencies are doing just that, none more so than the General Services Administration (GSA). With more than 370 million rentable square feet of real estate, GSA is one of the largest landlords in the world—and their tenants include more than 100 federal agencies. Late in 2023, GSA announced their plan to reduce their portfolio by 3.5 million square feet, enabling the government to avoid $1 billion in costs. And with about half of GSA’s leases expiring in the next five years, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan testified that the agency could reduce the federal real estate footprint by as much as 30%, saving billions more.

As one of the only Fed-RAMP certified IWMS providers, Tango is ready to help agencies right-size their portfolios to eliminate wasted space while ensuring government employees have the space they need to be effective.

But selling off unneeded real estate isn’t the only way the government is optimizing their total office space.

2. Improving occupancy rates

Since the mass transition to remote and hybrid work, empty workstations, meeting rooms, and other spaces have been one of the main major signals of excess space. And by the end of 2023, the majority of federal headquarters offices reviewed by the Government Accountability Office had occupancy rates below 25%—that’s a lot of empty workstations. The Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure has introduced new bipartisan bills mandating how government real estate needs to be managed, including a requirement to improve occupancy rates to a minimum of 60%, ensuring that more of each facility’s usable space serves a purpose.

But as with any employer, there are a couple major challenges here:

  1. Most organizations and facilities don’t have the processes or equipment in place to track occupancy analytics in meaningful ways, and the government is no exception
  2. Workers don’t want to be forced back to the office full-time

Workplaces around the world are still learning the best ways to track which spaces are occupied throughout the day, often using a combination of disparate processes like badge scans, office reservations, and manual walkthroughs. The most advanced workplaces are adopting Internet of Things (IoT) sensors like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDaR) strips and blurred vision cameras to track bodies and movement throughout a facility. These solutions can be brought together into live floor plans and straightforward dashboards with advanced IWMS software like Tango Space. While implementing new technology requires an investment, that investment is the only way the federal government can know for sure whether occupancy requirements are being met and real estate is truly being used responsibly.

As for getting employees in the building more often, the solution for government agencies is the same as it has been for every other employer: compromise. While mandates to return to the office have often been ineffective with knowledge workers, 57% of workers with full autonomy to determine where and how they work prefer a hybrid schedule. Given the choice, most knowledge workers do want access to an office building. They don’t necessarily want to be fully remote, but requiring them to return full-time leads many employees to quit instead of coming back, even accepting lower paying positions to avoid the switch. (And if you do make everyone come back, you lose the opportunity for cost savings associated with smaller real estate footprints.) So to satisfy occupancy mandates, government agencies will likely continue experimenting with various hybrid models, adjusting the dial until they find the right in-person requirements.

3. Establishing inter-agency access to facilities

Over the last few years, we’ve seen all kinds of organizations reap the benefits of hybrid work by downsizing their portfolios and improving occupancy rates. To a degree, the government has already been pulling these levers to reduce wasted resources—they’re just pulling them harder now that there’s more legislative pressure to do so. Recently, GSA deployed an innovative new strategy to improve utilization: they made some facilities accessible to employees from multiple agencies, essentially creating new government coworking spaces.

Partnering with Tango, GSA worked to create a custom configuration of our office hoteling software, Tango Reserve by Agilquest. They selected facilities from their portfolio that were best suited to serve as coworking facilities, and chose eligible employees based on their overlap in basic security clearances and types of work. This experimental model gave employees greater flexibility to choose where they work without hindering convenience or compromising security. Employees simply selected the available facility that worked best for them from the same system they already used for office reservations.

By enabling a larger pool of employees to share space, GSA made it easier for government employees to find convenient locations to work—which was especially valuable to employees who didn’t live near any facilities their agency owned or rented. When you can shave an hour or more off of your commute time, a hybrid work model suddenly feels a lot more sustainable. And when going to the office is convenient, people do it more often. Plus, this expanded access can improve hiring. Not only is it an easier sell to prospective employees, but it also increases the number of candidates in your hiring pool.

Use your agency’s offices more efficiently with Tango

While there are plenty of office reservation systems on the market that can offer either simplicity or complexity, few can offer both. And none of the other FedRAMP® certified solutions can match the breadth of Tango’s out-of-the-box use cases or bring that depth to a visual system employees can so intuitively understand. It’s why more than 40 government agencies trust us to handle their office booking, including GSA, FDA, NIH, HHS, and US Senate. Since 2010, AgilQuest (and now Tango Analytics) has received Very Good or Exceptional reviews from its customers through the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS).

Want to see what Tango can do for your agency?

Request a demo today.


Tango 2023 Sustainability Report

We have released our first Sustainability Report for 2023, marking an important step in our sustainability journey. In the report, we announce our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, setting us apart as a pioneer in the larger ecosystem of real estate technology providers.