Workplace as Strategic Resource

Technology, business practices, and even the demographic profile of the American workforce have changed dramatically in the last two decades. Teamwork has grown in importance; computers have digitized traditional paperwork; increased local mobility and greater geographic distribution of workers have become the rule rather than the exception. Flat, fluid organizations have proliferated, requiring workspaces that are less tied to hierarchy and status.

In 2002, GSA responded to these changes by launching the WorkPlace 20·20 research and development program. The effort focused on helping agencies use the workplace as a strategic resource: realigning work settings so they make sense for the modern workplace.

The program featured many different components, including the following:

Social Network Analysis (SNA)
An analysis of the social networks within an organization provides valuable insight into how the organization actually operates. SNA is important because work-related social networks—those representing informal patterns of communication and interaction—are often different from the lines of authority depicted in formal organizational charts. SNA can also provide compelling pre- and post-occupancy measures of how communication and interaction change following workplace redesign. A brief overview of SNA can be found in the Applied Research publication, The New Federal Workplace: A Report on the Performance of Six WorkPlace 20·20 Projects, on page 13.

Space Syntax
As described in the Space Syntax Laboratory website, “space syntax is a set of techniques for the analysis of spatial configurations of all kinds, especially where spatial configuration seems to be a significant aspect of human affairs, as it is in buildings and cities.” Making use of this concept, GSA developed quantitative metrics for establishing the relationships of office layouts to individual, workgroup, and organizational behavior.

Facility Match Tool
The Facility Match Tool is a set of drawn and written criteria for selecting buildings and office space. The tool assists local GSA offices in choosing buildings and sites that are conducive to an emphasis on business values, human capital, and desired results.

Workplace Lighting
Given the advances in lighting technology and the focus on energy efficiency, Applied Research pursued pilot studies at select GSA buildings to demonstrate that, with proper design, system selection, and implementation, lighting controls can provide significant energy cost reductions and demand response (DR) savings. The studies also show that the results can occur without adverse impacts on building tenants or owners.

Balanced Scorecard
Developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton of the Harvard Business School, the Balanced Scorecard is both a measurement and a management system, used to help achieve an organization’s mission. The scorecard offers a snapshot of the organization’s business strategy by identifying the goals, actions, and measures needed for achieving the mission. Measures focus on four domains—financials, business practices, customers, and human capital—that together form a “balanced” perspective on how well an organization is performing and that guide improvements. Kaplan and Norton demonstrated that organizations that measure their work in all four domains perform better and survive longer. 

GSA uses this framework to link ideas about the workplace back to an organization’s goals. Proposed workplace solutions must be tied to organizational needs and also have measures that support success for the tenant organization.

More information, including project reports and publications, can be found on the Workplace Effectiveness Research Publications page.

Last Reviewed 2016-08-22