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New layout unveiled for government offices

Space saver: Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Government offices will be converted to an open-plan style to maximise floor space and cut rental payments, the public works minister said yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the move, designed to cut down on the $8.9 million paid to the private sector in rent, would make more efficient use of space and reduce operational costs.

He added: “The existing government office space standards have not changed for decades, and are now considered overly generous.

“The layouts are inefficient compared with the more modern, flexible and collaborative work environments common in the private sector.”

He said the change, which will reduce the use of partitions and cubicles, had “not surprisingly” faced some opposition from civil servants.

Colonel Burch explained that “people like their own space and generally don’t like change”.

He said the estates department had set an example, which would now be taken up by other departments.

But he added: “Once the partitions and offices were taken out and you had all this natural light, people said ‘this is not so bad at all’.”

The new space allocations, announced in Parliament last year, are:

• Ministers: cut from 250 to 300 square feet to 200 square feet

• Permanent secretaries: cut from 200 to 250 square feet to 150 square feet

• Directors: cut from 150 square feet to 100 square feet

• Staff: cut from 100 square feet to 65 square feet

Space for department heads will be cut by up to two-thirds and space for general staff will be reduced by 35 per cent.

Only ministers, permanent secretaries and directors will get private offices.

Colonel Burch said the transition had been “quite smooth so far” and allowed the estates department to put 23 people in an area that used to hold 15.

The estates makeover was completed in November and cost $500,000. The work, including new furniture, took five months to complete.

To read Colonel Burch’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.