Currently Reading

Unlocking innovation in the government workplace

Government Buildings

Unlocking innovation in the government workplace


By Bob Peck | Gensler | December 1, 2016

Mecklenburg County Land Use Environmental Service Agency, Charlotte, NC, Image © Gensler.

Gensler’s 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey identified elements of workplace design that foster innovation. Digging into the data, Gensler researchers were able to determine which industry sectors have workplace designs that most foster innovation and which have workplaces that inhibit it.

Not surprisingly, the technology industry rated highest on Gensler’s innovation scale. Government rated lowest. Governments are not necessarily looking to be on the “cutting edge” of innovation. After all, they are using taxpayers’ dollars and so do not have the same risk-reward profile when it comes to trying new things as competitive private sector firms.

But innovation is synonymous with creativity and problem-solving, and governments are definitely in the problem-solving business. As much as in any institution, government agencies need to be constantly finding ways to meet challenges, whether a public health menace, sub-optimal education outcomes, a redevelopment need or a foreign policy dilemma. Governments are also in the service delivery business. As demographics change, finances fluctuate and technology evolves, they need to keep up with and hopefully get ahead of the waves of change. Only by evaluating obstacles and developing new means of service delivery—in other words, by innovating—can governments hope to meet the changing needs of their constituents.

 

Confidential Government Tenant, Image © Gensler.

 

Government work settings ranked the lowest in their effectiveness across the four work modes: focus (individual) work, collaboration, socializing (informal gathering that fosters trust and teamwork) and learning. What specifically about the government workplace is getting in the way?

Gensler’s research found that a choice of work settings is the largest single contributor to employees feeling that their workplace fosters innovation. The ability to move around the work environment and perform tasks in different settings promotes creativity. Government workers report the lowest levels of choice of any industry, and they rarely work from anywhere but their assigned seat or the formal meeting room. That lack of choice ends up interfering with both focus and collaborative work, and cuts down the sense of empowerment that motivates workers. The most innovative environments are those that foster both creative group work and creative individual thinking and provide spaces for both.

Gensler has extensive experience evaluating, programming and designing workplaces for governments at all levels in the U.S. Our overriding observation has been that legacy government workplaces tend to be uni-dimensional: either predominantly closed offices with meeting rooms that are not enlivening, or predominantly open work areas with few focus rooms and inadequate meeting room space. In those legacy spaces, we rarely see a good mix of spaces or the café/pantry areas that double as informal meeting spaces and that are often a hallmark of creative offices.

Led by the U.S. General Services Administration, government workplaces are beginning to offer the choice of settings that will support innovation and enhance workplace performance. In its groundbreaking space planning guidance, Workplace Matters (2006), GSA showed the way to a more effective and efficient federal workplace. Gensler was one of the prime consultants for that study, which foretold the benefits of providing choice and transparency. Gensler also was the interior designer for the renovation of GSA’s own Washington headquarters which has become a model for government workplace transformation.

We see the concepts pioneered by GSA increasingly making their way into state and local government space planning guidelines. And we look forward to seeing the innovation needle move in Gensler’s next Workplace Survey.

More from Author

Gensler | Sep 4, 2020

The office building of the future should be an essential part of its community

When the dust settles, the office is going to look and feel like a different place than the one we left in March.

Gensler | May 12, 2020

Understanding the touchless workplace

In the workplace, digital solutions and platforms have eliminated some of the noise by improving guest check-in, conference room booking, company communications, wayfinding, food and beverage service, and more.

Gensler | Mar 27, 2020

Designing healthcare for surge capacity

We believe that part of the longer-term answer lies not just with traditional health providers, but in the potential of our cities and communities to adapt and change.

Gensler | Mar 18, 2020

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift for higher education

The question for higher education is, what will the university of the future look like?

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

Designing office building lobbies to respond to the coronavirus

Touch-free design solutions and air purifiers can enhance workplace wellness.

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

In the face of the coronavirus, workplace wellness is key

Here are a few considerations employers should keep in mind in creating plans for a healthy and effective work environment.

Gensler | Feb 11, 2020

Want your organization to be more creative? Embrace these 4 workplace strategies

Creativity is the secret sauce in the success of every business.

Gensler | Oct 17, 2019

Doubling down on our commitment to resilience

With hundreds of millions of square feet of buildings and interior design projects in the pipeline annually, we believe our impact and role in reducing energy demand is critical.

Gensler | Jul 15, 2019

Hospitals are moving into their communities

Below are five strategies to improve access and patient experience.

Gensler | May 20, 2019

How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

Connected devices and their wealth of data have led to significant improvements in operational efficiency and passenger experience in airports.

More In Category



How open is too open for you office?

Our data reveal what is truly going on in the current workplace, with insights on how workplace design can deliver new value to organizations.



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: