While the concept of intelligent shared buildings and mobile working is becoming common in the private sector, the public sector is struggling to keep up. It was estimated in 2007 that there were properties worth £220 billion and almost 6 million workers in the UK public sector. Furthermore, by 2009 there will be 16 million mobile workers – 54 per cent of our workforce – making use of broadband in over 12 million homes and wireless networks in private and public spaces.
The private sector has traditionally been better at taking advantage of the latest techniques to enhance the buildings in which it works. From a construction perspective, the private sector is continually demanding the latest electronic ‘goodies’ to improve the potential, profitability and serviceability of its new buildings, inside and out.
The public sector is at an immediate disadvantage to its private counterparts as it has a more siloed approach and is therefore less effective at considering whole lifecycle costs and sustainability. In addition, the public sector has other challenges to deal with; there are currently 1500 projects budgeted at £49 billion over the next three years in the public sector, including the rebuilding of our schools.
The public sector has to meet employee demand too. Staff are well aware of the facilities available to enhance their working experience and are more likely to want to work in an environment that offers this. Although Cisco’s recent ‘IQ of the Network’ study revealed that recruiting and retaining staff is the business manager’s number one headache, nearly half of the organisations in the study did not allow flexible working.
Networking technology offers a solution as it has the power to transform property, space and how buildings function. It can also make buildings more flexible, safer, more economical to run and suitable for flexible working, making them more attractive to potential employees thereby helping to soothe the recruitment headache.
For example, Surrey County Council has removed the barriers between departments and created shared spaces through the creation of a country-wide electronic network, allowing staff to work from any office. Staff can now access telephone and computer services securely and wirelessly, while social workers have saved over 50 per cent of their travel and administration time. At the same time, the council has seen capital savings of £25 million – over half of its original property expenditure – and reduced its annual expenses by £13 million.
The latest networking capabilities are an excellent opportunity for the public sector. Professor Peter James, head of UK CEED sustainIT programme, estimates there is £8 billion of wasted space in the UK public sector, equivalent to almost one per cent of our GDP.
Adopting a strategy that allows your property to be fully connected will not only help to reduce the amount of wasted space, but it will also significantly improve the way your organisation operates. It will allow the public sector to move its buildings into the 21st century, to offer current and potential employees an appealing workplace as well as reducing the drain on the Treasury.
Andy Macleod is a business development manager at Cisco.