WASHINGTON (TND) — The pandemic forced businesses worldwide to reevaluate their approach to remote work, and that included U.S. government agencies.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), known as the investigative arm of Congress, recently released a report that investigated 24 government agencies. It found 17 out of the 24 government agencies' buildings were operating at 25% capacity or less during a three-week period in early 2023.
Government agencies allocate substantial resources to maintain their office spaces. The GAO found it costs around $5 billion annually for all of the federal agencies to lease their office buildings, with an additional $2 billion allocated for the maintenance of these spaces -- even when they remain underutilized.
The impact of this issue hasn't gone unnoticed by lawmakers as some are calling for government workers to return to the office. Earlier this year, House Republicans passed the "SHOWUP Act," a bill aimed at restoring pre-pandemic remote work levels. The White House Chief of Staff also reportedly sent out an email in August alluding returning to in-person work was a priority for President Joe Biden.
However, the GAO suggests that better management and reduced office space usage could lead to significant cost savings. As a recent example, the General Services Administration (GSA) successfully reduced the office space of some agencies, shedding almost 12 million square feet and cutting down on leased space by 14 million square feet since 2013. The GSA itself condensed its office own space by 350,000 square feet in the past 12 years, leading to annual savings of around $24 million.
While government agencies grapple with remote work, major corporations like Goldman Sachs are also implementing policies that aim to reshape the future of work in the private sector. A survey conducted by Resume Builder revealed that a staggering 90% of companies plan to implement policies encouraging or requiring employees to return to the office by the end of 2024.
Approximately 12.7% of full-time employees now work from home, while 28.2% have adopted a hybrid model, splitting their time between the office and home.
The impact of remote work on productivity has been a subject of debate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employee productivity initially rose by 4.4% in 2020 but according to Forbes Advisor, labor productivity dropped by 2.7% during the first quarter of this year compared to last, marking the sharpest decline in 75 years. The latest BLS report shows a 3.5% increase in the second quarter.
A report from WFH Research suggests that fully remote work is associated with 10 to 20% lower productivity than in-office work. However, hybrid work schedules, which offer benefits such as reduced commuting time and improved recruitment and retention rates, have shown positive impacts on productivity.