Prior to the pandemic, a large Texas state agency made the decision to leverage a facilities consolidation project for its Austin headquarters campuses as an opportunity to modernize its workforce strategy. The new flagship facility, to be completed in 2022, will consolidate five campuses and reduce the overall office square footage for 1,800 Austin-area employees. Recognizing the need to optimize usage of the new campus’ smaller footprint, the agency began exploring telework and other flexible work strategies as a solution. Acknowledging the benefits to work-life balance that these strategies offer, the broader goal was to implement an agency-wide Flexible Work Strategy initiative across the 12,000-person organization to promote work-life balance and retain and attract new talent. It was in the midst of this major organizational change that the team was required to expedite their efforts, implementing telework and supporting strategies to comply with work-from-home orders.
Starting in 2018, Guidehouse began working with this Texas agency to develop a flexible work strategy implementation plan. Leveraging our organizational change management framework, Guidehouse began by conducting an organizational design assessment, identifying and categorizing the agency’s main work personas (office worker, field, onsite, and travel). Based on the role requirements for each persona, Guidehouse and the agency established eligibility for a variety of flexible work strategies, such as telework and flexible work schedules, that enable productivity and efficiency, as well as improve employee work-life balance.
A change of this magnitude requires continual feedback from those impacted. Guidehouse conducted annual Stakeholder Assessments identifying concerns and areas of resistance toward the consolidation project and supporting flexible work strategies. A decrease in leadership oversight, reduction of productivity, and the potential loss of collaboration and agency camaraderie were identified early on as major concerns for the agency’s workforce.
Based on the feedback gained through the annual Stakeholder Assessment, Guidehouse developed and executed a training plan to build skills and ability to use virtual collaboration tools, manage performance, and enhance cross-functional communication to ensure employees were equipped with the skills and knowledge to work remotely.
Guidehouse then turned focus to developing and marketing initiatives that would prepare employees for the new activity-based work design in the future campus. Guidehouse collected user feedback on technology pilots in a prototype lab designed to simulate the future campus’s work environment. The team analyzed pilot feedback to fine-tune technology that will enable virtual collaboration and flexible work styles. Throughout the duration of the project, the team facilitated engagement activities focused on collaboration and customer service to ensure a well-rounded and performance-oriented workplace transformation.
This Texas state agency, having implemented flexible work strategies for eligible personas, found themselves well-positioned to shift to a mandatory telework workforce when mandated by the governor in March 2020 due to COVID. Employees had been trained on a variety of virtual collaboration tools that allowed them to provide uninterrupted customer service to both their internal and external customer base. Concerns with monitoring productivity were alleviated as supervisors and managers were able to put into action the specialized training they had received as part of the supporting campus consolidation initiatives.
The project was the catalyst to redefine how this state agency works by creating opportunities to work flexibly, increasing collaboration and efficiencies not only in Austin but throughout the agency. Thanks to the early investment in flexible work strategies, one of the largest Texas state agencies was an early leader of telework among its peers, and one that many other state agencies have looked to for best practices as they adapt to the new normal in a post-pandemic world. Looking forward, they are equipped to compete for talent among other leading employers in the state by offering a modernized work environment and flexible workplace policies.