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The Future of Work in Government – Workplace 2020

How will flexible work make a difference to government workplaces?

By Bridget Hardy, Head of High Performing Property Strategy and Implementation, Office of Government Commerce

The Vision

The year is 2020: the landscape of government work is transformed. Traditional associations between work and place have gone. The link between person and desk has been broken, and in so doing many people in the public sector across the regions now have access to better quality space and resources.

A flexible and sustainable estate has evolved saving money and giving employees more freedom of choice over where and how they work and live. Flexible distributed working is commonplace.

Public sector workplaces are strategically placed within an integrated network of large campuses, small on-demand spaces plus transient public and private places – all interconnected via ubiquitous wireless connectivity, mobile devices, and real-time interactive networks.

Transforming government workplaces

This vision of the future of government workplaces is from Working beyond Walls, the Office of Government Commerce’s 2008 guidebook to transforming government workplaces and modernising the way the public sector works.

The pressure to modernise, economise and make more sustainable has never been more urgent. It is essential for the public sector to cut back significantly on the amount of space and energy it uses. The challenge is to do that while delivering citizens the public services they need now and in the future.

Responding to this challenge will need a radical new approach to integration across government departments and between central and local government. It means breaking down barriers and working, literally, ‘beyond walls’.

It won’t always be easy for individuals and leaders to understand adopt and manage these changes. It will need open mindedness, respect for individuals, and a visionary approach to flexibility. But the process of change has started.

In the UK and US there is great government enthusiasm for so-called ‘Gov2.0’ – using the web to conduct the business of government. Solutions are also emerging to facilitate flexible distributed working, to connect people, promote a sense of belonging and enable collaboration.

The best work almost always comes out of teamwork and the excitement of working with others to a common goal. Excellent public services will more and more rely on cross-sector collaboration and engaging diverse opinion and expertise. But meeting people ‘in real life’ is no longer so essential, especially for routine tasks.

Flexing across physical and virtual places

The growing popularity of real-time multi-media social interaction shows how strong relationships can be built with few if any ‘real life’ meetings. In the future ‘going to work’ will not just mean turning up at an office but also ‘tuning in’ to the network.

By 2020 we will be used to working in virtual places with hosts of people we may or may not have met. I can see a time where the virtual place becomes the constant - ‘the office’. It will be the place we go to meet our colleagues and customers, where we know and are known by others, where we have our place, our work and identity.

Meanwhile the physical places we choose to work in will become more diverse, more distributed and our occupation of them more transient. This combination of virtual and radically transformed physical workplaces makes up the government office of the future.

These changes will be hugely challenging but, I believe, essential and inevitable. Government must reduce its use of resources, it must reduce costs, it must continue to recruit the best people, it must modernise the way it delivers services. The next 10 years will see the public sector needing to be more innovative and flexible than ever.

January 2010










“Before long ‘going to work’ will not just mean turning up at the office but also tuning into the network.”





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