Workplace of the future: An innovative approach to work spaces – Canadian Government Executive

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May 7, 2012

Workplace of the future: An innovative approach to work spaces

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has a new and innovative strategy to adapt to the changing nature of work and the space in which it happens. Workplace 2.0 is a government-wide initiative to renew the federal workplace by modernizing the physical space; updating policies, processes and systems for public servants; and providing new technologies for employees to connect, collaborate and communicate with each other and with Canadians.

Workplace 2.0 transcends bricks and mortar. It is a platform from which government operates and a critical tool for doing business. The goal is to create a modern workplace that will attract, retain and enable public servants to be responsive, innovative and efficient.

The current government office physical environment, which is often seen as antiquated, is based on a hierarchical model, with very little opportunity for collaboration in open areas. Under the Workplace 2.0 model, workspaces are moving away from the current design of large, high-walled cubicles for workers and enclosed meeting rooms for collaborative activity.

In the Workplace 2.0 design, workers are assigned individual space based on their operational requirements, with additional space allocated to informal, open areas for collaborative work and small, private rooms for work requiring quiet. Mobile technology, including laptops, wireless Internet and cell phones enable workers to take full advantage of the flexible office space.

With this model, employees can be mobile, yet stay connected. It allows employees to work in a way that best suits them, whether that’s in the office, at a client’s location, in their home or in a coffee shop.

Going for green

Twenty years ago, the Brundtland Commission on environment and development stated that “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This philosophy is reflected in the Workplace 2.0 design concept by matching the size of workspaces to an employee’s needs and functions. The result is more efficient use of resources, less waste and less unused or underused space. The new office space may have lower walls or none at all between workstations, which would allow for more natural light to flow through the area. Boardrooms and enclosed offices are being built with easily moveable wall panels that can be reconfigured as required. Carpet tiles are made with recycled content.

New facilities will be strategically located near transit, allowing public servants to leave their cars at home and travel to work by bus or train, providing additional green benefits. Advances in videoconferencing technology will substantially cut down on carbon-intensive air travel.

All of these measures are not only good for the environment, they are also good for the bottom line. These open designs will help lower heating and lighting costs and avoid renovation costs when reconfiguring the space in the future.

Driving forces

The move to Workplace 2.0 is driven by several demographic, economic and societal factors including an increasingly diverse workforce, the need to attract and retain both younger and older workers, and the growing importance of environmental sustainability.

The federal government is dealing with an aging workforce. It is approaching a wave of retirement of up to one third of knowledge workers in the next few years. Workplace 2.0 deals with the increasingly competitive labour market brought on by an exodus of baby boomers and a generation of young recruits who’ve grown up in the digital age.

Moving forward

These new workspace concepts are being applied to future purchases of everything from office space to furniture to IT and will be implemented in new government building acquisitions. PWGSC executives give frequent tours of the Workplace 2.0 office space in Kanata, just west of Ottawa, to managers of other government departments anticipating a move or a renovation of their workspace.

 

Francois Guimont is Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

 

 

SIDEBAR

The plan in action

In Kanata, a 7,200 square-metre, single-floor office building was converted into the first full Workplace 2.0 renovation. Large windows around the perimeter and skylights throughout the facility let in natural lighting throughout the open space.

Employees are provided with a laptop and cell phone instead of a desktop computer and landline to encourage mobility; employees can take phone calls at their desk or move into another room for privacy and quiet. The entire facility has wireless networking so employees can move their laptops from their desks to anywhere in the office.

The boardrooms feature SMART Boards, which are white boards with touch screens that make it easy to create, edit and share documents; overhead microphones; and teleconference and video conference capabilities. One of the boardrooms is equipped with Telepresence, a high-resolution video conferencing technology.

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