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It’s Not Just About Escaping the Office

One reason the word “telework” seems inadequate to describe how we want to change the workplace is that it suggests that our focus is only on how people can be effective when they work at home. But that’s not really what it’s all about.

The Workplace of the Future is about people working where, when, and how they work best. And sometimes that will actually be in the office. For this reason, it’s important that we give a thought to how our office space looks and whether it supports the type of work environment we need to be fully effective. While we don’t want to have to come to the office every day, when we do go there we want a flexible work environment, a space that supports collaboration and innovation. We do not want a cubicle farm.

The commercial world is starting to move to a new model of space design that promotes creative interaction, and some government agencies are moving in this direction as well. It’s a concept that looks more like a coffeehouse than a paperwork factory. It eliminates cubicles, provides more informal seating, lots of white boards for group thinking, and flexible spaces that can be adapted to meet the need for short discussions or long term team projects.

Does it have challenges? Yes. It eliminates the status symbol of the corner office, and it asks us to get beyond our need for space “ownership.” It won’t be right for every organization. But it is time to start thinking beyond the cubicle. If you would like to learn about some of the radical space designs that organizations are adopting – and some of the challenges they are addressing — check out this New York Times article:


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Corey McCarren

At the GovLoop office we have an environment that is definitely prone to collaboration. Most of the workspace is an open space surrounded by desks and a white board. It’s so much better than a cubicle farm. The other office I’ve worked in I was also really informal, but that was more due to circumstance than planning (I worked at a lab in an incubator). I’d love to see the informal model take off with freedom to telecommute where appropriate.

Lawrence Jefferson Bell


I really enjoy your insight and thought-provoking observations but I’m afraid few of us will see your elegant vision or solution. I work in a cubicle (which may be reduced in size very soon) but the solution is often “hoteling.” While it may sound good at first blush, it often causes little more than carrying bigger or more briefcases and backpacks. In my case, it also increases my unreimbursed expenses by making it necessary for me to drive and put two briefcases/computer bags in the trunk of my car rather than using public transportation). The extra $10 to $14 per day for parking fees comes out of my pocket. Though I’m “scheduled for three telework days in each two week pay period, I’m rarely able to take more than one. It appears that frozen salaries, reduced budgets, and constrained infrastructure may push back against our innovative workplace and productivity initiatives.

Kevin Lanahan

I like the idea of working in a more collaborative environment, but my experience in government leads me to believe that all windows will immediately be encased in an office while everyone that isn’t an admin or lawyer will be in a CAFO-like cube farm. For people that make decisions about offices and workspace, it is often more about power than efficiency.

Kudos to the employers in the NYT article that don’t isolate themselves from the rest of the staff. It is a rare leader that can put ego aside and do this.