Client story

The State of Utah to save up to $13.6 million annually with hybrid master plan

When the pandemic accelerated remote work acceptance, the State of Utah reconsidered its master plan


The State of Utah’s master portfolio plan will save millions through remote work and other strategies.


Projected 850,000-square-foot portfolio reduction


Projected annual savings of $13.6 million when fully implemented


Up to 60% of employees in some agencies will work remotely some of the time

Known for its dramatic scenery, outdoor recreation and dynamic business environment, the State of Utah has been experiencing rapid growth. To meet growing constituent needs, the State was exploring remote work in a master plan for its administrative offices. Then the COVID-19 pandemic emerged—demanding a rapid rethink of the plan.

With 21 state agencies and more than 22,000 employees, the State of Utah owned and leased 3.8 million square feet of office and administrative space in Salt Lake County and elsewhere in Utah. The State’s Division of Facilities and Construction Management (DFCM) had completed a facility condition assessment and was renovating 400,000-square-foot of office space on a 31-acre campus in Salt Lake County to accommodate growth.

Also, the State was exploring remote work to reduce auto emissions as part of its environmental sustainability strategy. With remote work and future talent recruitment top of mind, DFCM turned to JLL to create an administrative space master plan based on space needs today and over the next 10 years. Goals included updating space plans according to today’s work modes; reducing space demand; and transitioning the State from leased to owned space.

The pandemic profoundly increased the acceptance of remote work by employees and leadership

The challenge of agency buy-in

With the concentration of facilities around Salt Lake County, DFCM wanted to first focus on Salt Lake County before turning to sites in the mostly rural remainder of the state. The planning team visited each Salt Lake County location to understand workplace quality, agency workflows and projected personnel growth, and uncover the needs and concerns of agency leaders.

Engaging stakeholders was critical to create buy-in for change—especially for the prospect of remote work. To address concerns, one key message was that the remote work program was voluntary and could be phased in over time. Early adopters could share lessons learned from their implementations. In addition, thoughtful workplace design would include conference rooms and other spaces for collaboration and team work; digital reservation systems and other workplace technologies; as well as shared desks and other resources.

The pandemic reset

Following the site visits, the team analyzed everything from head counts and space utilization to lease rates and occupancy costs across the Salt Lake County portfolio. Building scorecards rated workplace functionality, capital renewal requirements, technology, access to public transit—very important to many employees and constituents—and other key characteristics to create an overall building score.

With this comprehensive data, the team developed scenarios based on varying degrees of adoption more efficient space standards, teleworking, and desk sharing. By modelling projected capital costs for renovation and consolidation alongside savings from exiting leases and space optimization, the team was able to create a master plan that prioritized actions and produced long-term savings.

Then the pandemic emerged and with most state employees working from home, it became clear that ongoing telework was likely to be much higher than pre-pandemic estimates. This led the state to have the consulting team re-engage agency leaders, where they found that acceptance of remote work had changed dramatically. As a result, the team completely reworked the master plan for greater Salt Lake County, modelling scenarios based on 30% to 60% of employees working both remotely and in the office to some extent.

“When the pandemic emerged during our master planning, remote work was suddenly tested at scale.”

Sarah Boll, Assistant Director, Building Performance, Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management
Long-term savings through efficient, productive portfolios

With a sound understanding of space demand in Salt Lake County, the team then began planning for the remainder of the State’s portfolio. Since the areas outside Salt Lake County are largely rural, the team tailored the State’s workplace and portfolio strategies to align with local employee and constituent needs. In some areas, for example, multiple agency services potentially could be consolidated into a convenient central location.

By basing the master plan on a data-driven projected return on investment the State of Utah now has a roadmap toward saving as much as $13.6 million annually as it progressively shifts to its new hybrid workplace model. To achieve savings, capital investment from the state is required. DCFM recently achieved legislative budget approval for near-term implementation steps. The State anticipates exiting 67 leases and reducing its footprint by nearly 850,000 square feet across the state. Concurrently, it will construct a 126,000-square-feet of new regional centers in rural Utah and renovate 615,000 square feet of space within Salt Lake County.

Most important, the plan supports multiple State goals. Remote work and centralized sites near public transit will help reduce traffic congestion and harmful emissions, and contribute to cost savings. Employees are benefiting from better work-life balance and up-to-date, functional workplaces. As the State of Utah continues its forward trajectory, it is ready for the future of work.