By Bridget Hardy, Head of High
Performing Property Strategy and Implementation,
Office of Government Commerce
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
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
Walls, the Office of Government Commerce’s 2008
guidebook to transforming government workplaces and
modernising the way the public sector works.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.