Tuesday, October 24, 2017
A couple weeks ago I attended a conference located at a coworking space - one of these newish office spaces that enable freelancers and entrepreneurs to rent shared office space on a monthly basis.

The benefits of the space are flexibility, no need to sign a long-term lease, collaboration – people can share ideas with other officemates who may be in a completely different field -- and productivity – being around dynamic and committed workers motivates performance.  Coworking spaces are all over the world.  Picture working in a colorful office with designers and architects at “Patchwork” in Paris or a former Wonder Bread factory with tech startups at “WeWork” locations in the US.  The concept is the same from location to location, but the actual design changes according to the footprint of the building. 

While coworking is still a relatively small operation when compared with overall office space, it has real implications about the nature of work in the future, and has been increasingly adopted by many corporate and non-profit enterprises in the US and around the world.  This brings me back to the conference, entitled “The Future of Work.”   The discussion was about how technology changes not just work itself, but enables a change in work culture:   workers don’t need to worry about lugging around a big hard drive with the advent of cloud; office phones are replaced with mobile phones; a cube with a LAN connection is not needed with wifi in a shared space.  Additionally, future work will be much more outsourced to individuals on a project basis and work will be “outcome based,” as opposed to clocking time in an office.

This coworking culture has implications for questions about the future of government, as agencies begin to build on progress led by the General Services Administration and other early adopters of coworking spaces. Will the future workforce consist of short-term stints of a few years and then exit? How will jobs shift as technology replaces rote tasks? Where will people work?  Will more millennials be interested in working for government with a coworking backdrop? How will it incentivize innovation?

This conversation is especially timely as the administration has asked for proposals to reform and reorganize operations in the 2019 budget.  Shared Services (check out one of my earlier blogs) is included in OMB memo 17-22, “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” Coworking spaces may play a significant role with this in mind.

The implications to government of an innovative work environment with new expectations will be the subject of a future blog.


Photograph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Photographer: Paula Bernasor

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