'Work Anywhere' task force looks to modernize work spaces, practices

Over the next several years, the workplace culture at Stanford is expected to undergo some major changes—all of which might be described by the phrase "Work Anywhere." With the university anticipating the need for more space on the main campus for teaching, learning and research, an effort is under way to re-examine the traditional work setting of Stanford's non-academic operations and to think more flexibly about office space needs, employees' work schedules and even where they work.

Stanford Report will occasionally feature stories that illustrate these changes and the driving forces behind them. Stanford's top administrators and planners say the university's academic mission depends on the ability to accommodate the inevitable growth and evolution of world-class programs, and to upgrade existing facilities and construct new ones.

"The pressures on land and buildings in Stanford's core campus area have become increasingly intense in recent years as the university redoubles its efforts to lead the way in higher education," President John Hennessy said. "Stanford's staff has shown unsurpassed commitment and dedication as we struggle to find room for the extraordinary research and teaching facilities necessary to meet the goals of our ambitious vision."

"Maintaining this vision will require flexibility, openness to change and an innovative approach to sustaining Stanford's excellence within existing space constraints," Hennessy continued. "I am both confident and deeply appreciative of our staff's willingness to play this critical role in Stanford's future."

The university formed the 30-person Work Anywhere Task Force in June 2006 to explore the various ways in which Stanford's non-academic offices might revise conventional work spaces, schedules and locations—to give employees more flexibility in how they work and to adopt the most innovative, effective and efficient practices already in place throughout the broader job market.

Such trends have been slow to emerge in higher education, but Stanford is poised to be a leader in this regard, said Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, senior director of capital planning and space management in Land, Buildings and Real Estate. She co-chairs the Work Anywhere Task Force with Noel Hirst, manager of finance and facilities in the office of Business Affairs.

Hirst and Dyer-Chamberlain have been making presentations since March and spreading the message throughout campus that now is the time to re-examine how key staff operations at Stanford can develop and evolve. A program to encourage efficient space usage in the academic schools is also being developed.

In addition to introducing more flexibility to employees' schedules and options for where they work, the Work Anywhere effort aims to improve the quality of work environments, reduce peak commute trips to campus and support emergency preparedness plans. In some cases, the changes will result in staff groups relocating off campus altogether.

The first of these moves will be the so-called "Serra surge." By next summer, the Graduate School of Business will begin construction on a new campus where the buildings at 651 and 655 Serra St. are currently located. The offices now housed in those buildings—including core operations such as Human Resources, Business Affairs and Land, Buildings and Real Estate—will move to an interim location while a new permanent home for them is planned and constructed.

The university has secured an interim space in the Stanford Research Park, at 3145 Porter Drive, to house approximately 300 staff. To determine which offices would be most able to move there and which might be moved to other campus locations, the university surveyed more than 900 employees about how they work, who they interact with, what their work preferences entail and how they can continue to provide excellent service to campus groups.

Eventually, the university will build a new campus in Redwood City, alongside the outpatient center that Stanford Hospitals and Clinics is now building on the 46-acre Mid-Point property purchased by the university. The planning and overall concepts for the Redwood City campus are preliminary, and during initial discussions, office space for some university administrative and business functions have been brought up. Amenities such as lush walkways, fitness and daycare facilities, and architectural features that mirror those on the main campus are also being discussed.

"We know that none of our off-campus moves or workplace changes will be easy. Innovation requires hard work, difficult changes and tough questions," Hirst said. "But we are optimistic because we have heard such a continual refrain of intuitive and intelligent thinking from our employee peers over the last several months."

The first story in this series on workplace change at the university will appear in the July 28 issue of Stanford Report and will provide more detail about the interim move of the offices currently in the Serra buildings. Future stories will focus on the results of the Work Anywhere Task Force, innovative faculty and staff office spaces, new technologies designed to support the changing workplace and transportation issues.

"Stanford is a great university in large part because of the people who choose to work here," said Randy Livingston, Stanford's chief financial officer and vice president for business affairs. "Work Anywhere provides an opportunity for staff to become innovators and leaders, to help Stanford become a 21st-century workplace leveraging many of the technologies invented here in Silicon Valley."