Smaller Space = More Productivity?

office spaceThe U.S. General Services Administration’s Daniel M. Tangherlini is hoping that equation adds up.

The Washington Post recently reported that 3,300 GSA workers are returning to the agency’s newly renovated offices in downtown Washington, D.C., where employees will “have to work in less than half the space they once had.”

Tangherlini, administrator of the outfit that helps manage and support the basic function of federal agencies, is also encouraging telecommuting, “betting that his employees will get more done if they are at home—or anywhere outside the office, for that matter—more often,” according to the paper.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, Tangherlini has masterminded the GSA’s new floor plan and office décor, which eschews long corridors, high-walled cubicles and closed-door offices in favor of “open spaces filled with industrial white desks that most employees must now reserve like hotel rooms.” The idea, it seems, is to urge employees to work away from their desks when they are on-site, and to “help usher in a new federal culture in which working no longer means that your boss can see you.”

Tangherlini, who is urging employees to rely more heavily on methods such as instant messaging, Google Chat and email to communicate, has scaled back his own working quarters as well. Indeed, he “now camps out in an open area with his executive and support staff at a utilitarian, Ikea-style desk with no drawers and a blue recycling bin underneath,” as opposed to the 1,600-square-foot wood-paneled office—complete with silver-plated chandeliers and a working fireplace—Tangherlini had occupied since joining the GSA in 2012, the article notes.

The agency, which has already shed rented offices in D.C. and northern Virginia, for example, is hopeful that employees at the office “will work together better and more creatively if closed doors and high cubicles don’t get in the way.”

But even if the restructuring doesn’t drastically change how federal employees work, Tangherlini has another, bottom-line-oriented argument for downsizing office space.

“Let’s say you don’t buy any of that,” he told the paper. “We can show $24 million we saved in rent on six leases we don’t have anymore.”