Telework

Work: It's what you do, not where you do it

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With budget restrictions remaining a harsh reality, government agencies are continuing their quest to stretch dollars as far as possible. In the process, some are taking a hard look at their work environments and rethinking their approach to office space.

In particular, we're seeing a growing adoption of flexible, communal workspaces that in many cases permanently eliminate assigned offices and instead give employees the ability to work from anywhere at any time. Those new environments make work a thing you do, not just a place you go -- a concept that is already gaining traction in companies around the world.

Flexible workspaces free employees from enclosed office walls, an assigned desk or a single location. Instead, those environments enable employees to work at the office, at home or while traveling. Such workspaces provide, on average, seven desks for every 10 office workers, according to a study Citrix Systems conducted last year. The survey of 1,900 senior IT decision-makers across industries found that organizations expect to reduce office space by 7 percent in the next two years and 16 percent by 2020.

And if the private sector's success foreshadows the impact of flexible work environments in the public sector, agencies can expect to see a quick and beneficial financial return as a result of reduced real estate and supply costs. Further, flexible workspaces can help agencies consolidate their data centers, cut energy use and, above all, promote mobile work -- all critical areas of focus for the public sector.

Flexible workspaces have also been shown to foster creativity, encourage collaboration and improve morale. In a survey of more than 550 employees worldwide conducted by the nonprofit WorldatWork association, 64 percent of those who use a flexible work program said the programs have a positive effect on engagement and 65 percent said they have a positive effect on motivation.

Flexible workspaces can help agencies consolidate their data centers, cut energy use and promote mobile work.

Government agencies are beginning to embrace flexible workspaces, as evidenced by the General Services Administration's recently redesigned office that focuses on fostering collaboration. However, to achieve flexible workspaces, agencies must also deploy the technology and policies to make flexible work and mobile work successful and to ensure a top-of-the-line experience for all employees.

In addition, security remains a serious concern. As agencies diversify their work environments, the number of smartphones, laptop computers and tablet PCs connecting to networks will continue to grow, so it is imperative that IT leaders take the necessary precautions to ensure that the networks and devices are secure.

Desktop virtualization is the key to enabling access. Also important is a mobility management solution that empowers employees to use their own devices and access applications, email and data from anywhere and at any time. Many IT professionals and analysts are turning to enterprise mobility management -- which covers mobile devices, applications and data -- to enable connectivity while meeting security requirements. Through the use of powerful analytics, EMM enables administrators to audit devices, applications and network access so that IT teams can maintain full control of devices, regardless of an employee's location. If a user's device is broken or misplaced, the IT team can automatically and quickly wipe the device to ensure the safety of the data.

Jobs are no longer defined by four walls but instead enable employees to work, collaborate and meet in a variety of locations and settings. Flexible workspaces offer an enticing win-win opportunity for public-sector organizations by providing the ability to reduce operational costs while giving employees more flexibility.

About the Author

Tom Simmons is area vice president of public sector at Citrix Systems Inc.

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Reader comments

Mon, Feb 10, 2014

Flexible work program and flexible workspaces are two different things. I'm not sure I'd like a flexible workspace but would love a flexible work program

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 RayW

I wish these advertising messages would put up front that the author has a vested pecuniary interest in the subject (Citrix Systems Inc. is in the business of making money by selling this philosophy).

When I bought my last car, two of the dealers I went to had this type of office. When the salesman needed some more information she had to go look in the various "communal rooms" to find where the person was so I could talk to him. Since his phone was not answered and no page response, she tried the last rooms he was in, only to find that he was in another room for that day. Not good when you have a limited amount of time.

Yes, it saves money in square foot costs, but you have to be portable and not leave anything behind when you leave, otherwise you are interrupting the next occupant when you come to get your coffee cup or documentation you left behind, which for a 100% computerized office is not too bad (do they furnish lockers so you can clean out your personal stuff each day and store it?).

And as far as collaboration, the office picture shown is misleading since it is a conference room, not an office/cube. And finally, a whole new level of monitoring is required to know where the people you want to talk to are located today, wonder if that cost is considered (BTW, no cell phones are allowed in most of the areas that my work takes me to). I could write more, but the person I need to talk to has shown up in the cube I expect to see him, so time to go to work.

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