Feds’ Work­place 2.0 plan ‘a dis­as­ter,’ top bu­reau­crat says

Ottawa Business Journal - - REAL ESTATE - BY PETER KOVESSY pkovessy@obj.ca

Morguard’s Bernie My­ers is ‘thrilled’ at the prospect of the feds step­ping up leas­ing.

The fed­eral govern­ment’s of­fice space mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram is a “dis­as­ter,” ac­cord­ing to its top real estate ex­ec­u­tive, who also sug­gested he was cool to­wards con­tin­u­ing to own, rather than lease, some prop­er­ties.

Kevin Rad­ford, an as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter at Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada, made his re­marks on Oct. 19 dur­ing a wide-rang­ing pre­sen­ta­tion at the Ot­tawa Real Estate Fo­rum.

In 2011, the de­part­ment – then known as Pub­lic Works and Govern­ment Ser­vices Canada – be­gan im­ple­ment­ing a pro­gram called “Work­place 2.0,” re­think­ing how and where pub­lic ser­vants work.

Mr. Rad­ford said too much em­pha­sis was placed on re­duc­ing the real estate foot­print of civil ser­vants without suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion to in­te­grat­ing work­place tech­nol­ogy into the re­vamped of­fices. “Work­place 2.0 is a dis­as­ter,” he said. Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment, the av­er­age fed­eral em­ployee used 18.4 square me­tres in 2012-13, which is the most re­cent fis­cal year for which records are pub­lished. That’s down from 21.6 square me­tres per em­ployee in 2006, ac­cord­ing to an au­di­tor gen­eral re­port.

The goal of Work­place 2.0 is to cre­ate “Work­places of the Fu­ture” that en­cour­age more col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween em­ploy­ees, of­fer greater flex­i­bil­ity and al­low bureau­crats to make bet­ter use of tech­nol­ogy such as video­con­fer­enc­ing.

It di­rectly af­fects the pri­vate sec­tor, specif­i­cally those firms that sup­ply the fed­eral govern­ment with of­fice fur­ni­ture, ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices and leased space.

Old cu­bi­cles were to be re­placed with shared and col­lab­o­ra­tive spa­ces, as well as work sta­tions with lower pan­els aimed at en­cour­ag­ing in­ter­ac­tion, in­creas­ing nat­u­ral light and im­prov­ing air cir­cu­la­tion.

How­ever, Mr. Rad­ford said steps were missed dur­ing the roll­out, such as en­sur­ing bureau­crats could wire­lessly ac­cess the In­ter­net in shared work ar­eas.

“How can we be go­ing to var­i­ous build­ings and chang­ing the fur­ni­ture around and not en­sur­ing that mod­ern tech­nol­ogy (such as) ba­sic, se­cure ac­cess to Wi-Fi is avail­able?” he asked.

Dur­ing his speech, Mr. Rad­ford also out­lined a vi­sion for dra­mat­i­cally re­think­ing where in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion civil ser­vants work.

In re­cent years, the fed­eral govern­ment has been re­duc­ing its pres­ence in Ot­tawa’s cen­tral busi­ness district and look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­lo­cate to other ar­eas close to mass tran­sit, such as the Ot­tawa Train Yards.

How­ever, Mr. Rad­ford said he’d like to go fur­ther and al­low bureau­crats to work closer to home.

His vi­sion in­cludes fed­eral of­fice hubs scat­tered through­out the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion. Em­ploy­ees could choose where they wanted to work and use an elec­tronic reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem to re­serve a work­sta­tion.

Mr. Rad­ford also ques­tioned the wis­dom of the fed­eral govern­ment own­ing its own of­fice build­ings, es­pe­cially given the chal­lenges in ac­cu­rately pre­dict­ing fu­ture de­mand.

Any shift to­wards leas­ing more space would cre­ate sig­nif­i­cantly more busi­ness for pri­vate-sec­tor land­lords.

“I was thrilled to hear (Mr. Rad­ford) say that they they re­ally shouldn’t own build­ings, that they should be leas­ing build­ings,” said Bernie My­ers, vice-pres­i­dent for east­ern Canada at Morguard, dur­ing a later panel dis­cus­sion. Morguard is one of the fed­eral govern­ment’s largest lo­cal land­lords.

FILE PHOTO

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