GAO: Federal Buildings Underutilized Due to Old Challenges, Increased Telework


From The GAO: Federal agencies have long struggled to determine how much office space they needed to fulfill their missions efficiently. Retaining excess and underutilized space is one of the main reasons that federal real property management has remained on GAO’s High-Risk List since 2003. Seventeen of the 24 federal agencies in GAO’s review used an estimated average 25 percent or less of their headquarters buildings’ capacity in a three-week sample period across January, February, and March of 2023. On the higher range, agencies used an estimated 39 to 49 percent of the capacity of their headquarters on average.

Related: DIGITAL MAIL: Give Employees the Mail How They Want It

The use of federal real property was greatly impacted by the March 13, 2020, national emergency declaration related to COVID-19 and the release of subsequent guidance aimed at slowing the transmission of COVID-19.  Federal agencies responded by adopting a maximum telework posture, allowing many employees to work remotely off-site for necessary agency operations. As a result, many federal employees shifted to remote work and telework, including employees who had not historically done so.

In June 2021, OMB issued a memo directing agencies to create plans for bringing staff back to their agency offices to perform their work.  All of the 24 FRPC member agencies said they completed their initial return to the office transitions at some point during 2022. The national emergency declaration related to the pandemic was terminated on April 10, 2023.

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