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Friday, July 31, 2009

Using shift work for white collar jobs to greatly reduce the fiscal and environmental cost of new office space

This policy change could help cover the uninsured and also cut the governments carbon footprint by 20% to 50%.

I believe that when this policy change is adopted by the federal government and the sates, it could have the greatest impact on our society, the economy, and the environment of any other event of Obama's first term. We are looking for a national spokesperson. If adopted by private industry, it would be like finding vast new reserves of oil and metals in the USA, enough to construct as many buildings as we have in the last 150 years. Almost all buildngs can be retro-fitted for the white collar work of the 21st century. It would also stop the giant sucking sound and make American workers competetive again in the global economy. Outsourcing and the movement of our jobs overseas could be reversed.

The General Services Administration (GSA) owns and leases over 354 million square feet of space in 8,600 buildings in more than 2,200 communities nationwide. 354 x $40/sq ft = $14.1 billion x 10 years = $141 billion.
The office space that GSA is paying for is normally used by White collar workers for about 9 hours a day during the week for a total of 45 hours a week or 2340 hours per year. The office space is available 168 hours per week or 24/7. The space is under-utilized about 123 (168-45) hours per week or 6396 hours per year. Under current practices, the federal government (GSA) has additional free space available of about 270% more than we are currently using. (6396/2340=2.73). This additional space could be worth $381 billion. ($141 billion x 2.7= $381 billion) GSA is planning to build numerous new office buildings in the coming years.
GSA lived throught the end of the Industrial Revolution and at the beginning of the White Collar Era. We have grown up during the Information Age which morphed into the Digital Age that we are in right now. We seemed to have forgotten the basic concept that made the Industrial Revolution one of the most important events in human history. "Interchangeable parts." Sure our software and hardware take advantage of this concept, but what about our brick and mortar, our great investment in land, buildings, and interior space. In order to achieve mass production and manufacture a profitable product, Henry Ford and others made capital investments in factories with assembly lines. The industrial revolution would not have been successful if they only used these expensive investments 8 hours a day for five days a week. They greatly reduced their ongoing overhead by operating three shifts a day and some shifts on weekends. Almost all office space now is used by workers only about 9 hours a day five days a week. Most of the processing and storage of documents needed by our agency's technicians exist in an electronic environment. Within the next five to ten years more than 50% of the work done by federal agencies will be in an electronic environment including work from phone calls and internet sites. Most agencies have nationwide integrated telecommunications networks which have the ability to route calls on demand to a multitude of different offices nationwide. These services are already available outside normal business hours and could be expanded to 24/7.

I suggest that we phase in a program to utilize the under-used space we already paid for by beginning second and third shifts in many of our offices. We no longer have thousands of paper forms, documents, and files to store in each office since they are electronic. The second and third shifts could on answer the 800 number phone calls, work on electronic claims files, disability claims, and applications and post-adjudicative work received from our internet portals. The time is now for this sea change in this white collar paradigm:Because of tight budgets, we can no longer afford the luxury of providing white collar workers with work space that is utilized only a third of the time. We could not afford to have all government owned vehicles to run on idle 24 hours a day even when not in use.With the prospect of ongoing high unemployment, workers will be willing to adjust to shift work. It is better than not working at all. Many medical offices already use this concept as they may be occupied by a different specialist each day of the week.With the prospect of universal health coverage on the horizon, we could almost instantly provide the office space, infrastructure, customer service counters, and computer networks that will be needed to administer such a program. We already have the technology to make a fairly seamless transmission.
Even on a limited basis, the federal government could save the capital expense of more office space by using some of the $418 billion dollars in under-utilized space we have already paid for. The savings could be the billions of dollars.

We would be better utilizing safety, security, furniture, and systems investments and thus, greatly reducing our the federal government's carbon footprint

We could help create jobs for a new industry for retro-fitting billions of square feet of empty buildings to three-shift office space. Why waste our money on thousands of new buildings and destroy even more land when we already have the space.
Globally, we would be setting an example for hundreds of other government and non-government organizations and millions of private businesses. Were they to follow suit the savings could be in the trillions of dollars. By facilitating this simple yet bold paradigm shift we could create jobs, speed up the availability of universal health coverage, and help save the environment.


  1. Thanks for the comment. Interesting idea.

  2. Great insight and thanks for your comments on Political Policy. They are always welcome. Best to you, Political Policy