There have rapid advances made in government workplace in recent years, particularly in the UK where the Office of Government Commerce has been active in promoting "new" workplace, as documented in the joint OGC / DEGW publications Working without Walls and Working beyond Walls.
The drivers for the new workplace have been the needs to reduce cost, provide more flexible working environment for staff and better, more "linked-up" service delivery. The nature of the innovations introduced varies widely, depending upon the sector and context, as each level of government has different opportunities and challenges.
At a local government level there have been a number of significant workplace initiatives in Australia and New Zealand in recent years, with projects by the Cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Christchurch. This sector typically has staff working in small teams under demanding circumstances and benefits from a high level of internal interaction and support. Customer service processes and the interface with the public are important issues.
There is currently significant focus within state governments at present to improve workplace efficiency and utilisation, with a number in Australia undertaking pilots to assess the ability to improve static density from the currently-accepted 15 sq.m. / person. Departmental reorganisations and the workplace churn and "change fatigue" that it generates are constant and disruptive factors for this sector.
A key driver of workplace change at federal / national government level is communication and collaboration to support increasing workloads in policy development and deployment. In Australia, the federal government is taking a more holistic view on workplace than has previously been the case, seeking to establish common standards after years of the workplace planning and implementation functions having been devolved to individual departments.
Another sector that has been active in workplace innovation is that of government-owned corporations, which faces many of the same issues as its peers, most notably in terms of public accountability, but has more autonomous decision-making. The recently completed headquarters of SA Water in Adelaide is a significant example of this.
Whilst the government sector generally shares many attributes with those of the commercial sector, there are a number of significant differences, particularly with respect to "people" issues. Personal motivations are different, particularly at middle management level. Contrary to popular belief, commitment to serving the public is a common and important thread. Decision-making is more difficult, however, as is obtaining the necessary technology to support workplace innovation, and the process of evolving current practices and standards is more measured.