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Another Telework Driver: Freezing the Federal Footprint

In line with its mission to ensure the careful use of Federal funds, OMB issued guidance on 5/11/12 to Federal agencies that requires them to make more efficient use of existing government real estate — in effect, “freezing the Federal footprint.”

In a roundabout way, this is good news for Telework fans. By requiring agencies to think about the best use of the space that they already have, it may also force them to think about alternatives – like encouraging employees to take advantage of Telework Programs that allow them to work outside the office. Breaking the tie between the Federal worker and the cubicle that he or she sits in is a critical step on the road to the future workplace. We won’t get there, of course, if we see this only as a reason to reduce cubicle size or mandate a hoteling system without considering the needs of organization, its work processes, or its culture. But budget pressures are clearly inspiring some Federal agencies to think more creatively about how they use the space that they have – and this is good news for people who want to promote a new view of the workplace.

What can we do to ensure that pressure on facilities translates into support for a more flexible workplace? A few ideas:

  • Get the people who will be impacted by changes to space usage involved in the decision making.
  • Don’t just shrink the space – make this an opportunity to redesign space to enhance team collaboration.
  • Think about how your Telework policy can support changes to space usage.
  • Support changes through effective communication – make the case for change clear and compelling.

If we are creative in responding to the pressure to reduce space, we can use a directive to “think small” as an opportunity to “think big.”

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

This is a good opportunity for the HR, IT, and Facilities folks to collaborate on redesigning the virtual office of the future. We need to allow more wireless access in the workplace and eliminate landlines to truly make workers mobile/virtual. We need to share facilities and use a more open office space layout, eliminating private offices and cubicles. Then, we need to incentivize telework by allowing employees to use their preferred device and providing them a small stipend to defray their own costs for service and equipment.

Andy Lowenthal

Nice thoughts, Naomi. I like your frame of turning a theoretical negative (budget cuts) into a positive (mobile, modern workforce).

And a resounding yes to preferred devices, Terry. If it’s too heavy for your lap, it shouldn’t be called a laptop…

Adam Arthur

There has certainly been some other good discussions on this. I posted, “What are your predictions for virtual technology in 2012?” and participated in several other good ones:

“Benefits of commuting to your 3D Virtual Office?”, (I posted a few shots of the CDC Virtual Offices Initiative interface and the CDC Public Health Informatics 2011 Virtual Conference on page 2 for you to take a look at); “What Would You Give Up in order to Telecommute?” ; and “2012: The rise of the virtual workforce”. You can always check out the group, “Teleworkers and Telework Managers” – there is always good stuff going on there!