Federal Workspaces Are Changing, the Question Is How?

Budget pressures, mandates to reduce space, and promises of productivity are urging agencies to reassess where--and how--people work.

In a world where half of employee cubicles are smaller than the bathrooms in their homes, the open floorplan may have gotten a bad rap. “Six-packs,” as some cubicles are affectionately called, are becoming more and more common as agencies struggle with the “taffy pull,” or the almost partisan divide between open space and individual private office devotees.

At Excellence in Government 2014, a panel of senior leaders in public and private sector organizations discussed this so called “taffy pull.” Chuck Hardy, Chief Total Workplace Officer at the General Services Administration, Paul Rauch, Assistant Director for Business Management and Operations at the Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), and Larry Fitzpatrick, President of professional services firm Computech, all provided their input on how agencies can rightsize workspaces, a term Hardy loosely translated as “giving employees what they need to do their work.”

Budgets and mandates to reduce space are pushing all agencies to reassess workspaces, but the panel also called attention to push factors such as productivity gains. As Fitzpatrick explained, employees can make great productivity gains by being able to choose where they work. On a day demanding quiet, they may want to sit in a certain area, while other days may require frequent collaboration with colleagues.

On the other hand, individualized office space can also bring productivity gains. “People have a need for a space, a place to call their own,” Fitzpatrick explained. If having a designated space helps employees get into the zone 15 minutes faster, then spending a little more on office space might be worth it, he added.

No matter what the future workspace looks like, the panel agreed that distractions must be taken care of above all. “The average distraction costs 25 minutes,” Fitzpatrick said. That’s time that no agency can afford to waste.

- Zoe Grotophorst, Manager, Research & Strategic Insights

For more from 2014 Excellence in Government, check out GBC’s EIG2014 recap series.

Image creditHey Paul Studios (CC by 2.0)


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