JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center is building and benchmarking a radically new way of working called the Office of the Future, or O2F.
The center began remodeling headquarters space in San Antonio on July 26 to create an office environment that enables flexibility, fosters innovation and collaboration, and improves quality of life and mission effectiveness.
After proving the mission can be done from a mostly telework environment during the COVID-19 pandemic - and realizing the benefits that come from working at home - the center set out to redesign the future of work for the organization, said Col. Kevin Mantovani, AFIMSC vice commander.
“O2F is born out of innovation and lessons learned throughout the pandemic,” he said. "We're combining the good that comes from teleworking with the good that comes from collaborating in person to build O2F."
Over the next few months, contractors will replace about 100 cubicles in two bays of the headquarters – a total of 10,500 square feet – with modern work and collaborative spaces, including multiple team rooms for in-person and virtually supported meetings.
When finished, the areas will feature open, café-style seating where employees can meet and work with coworkers. Sections of cubicles that remain will be turned into hoteling stations, allowing employees greater flexibility and control over where they work to more effectively use the office space while decreasing the footprint of fixed cubicle rows.
“I’m looking forward to the Office of the Future and the flexibility to work from home or the office,” said Salvador Orozpe, official mail and postal program manager with the AFIMSC Installation Support Directorate. “It will be great to have more open space in the bay, a relaxed atmosphere and a work environment that’s closer to how many private organizations are set up now."
Starting in early September, or when local health protection conditions allow, AFIMSC employees based in San Antonio will be able to reserve work and collaboration space with hoteling software available through a mobile app, web browser and, eventually, on-site kiosks and displays. When not in the building to collaborate, most employees will be teleworking.
The center’s leadership believes redefining the notion around teleworking begins as a cultural shift that emphasizes accomplishments and outcomes over how work is getting done, said Lt. Col. Craig Svanberg, O2F project leader and special projects officer with the AFIMSC Directorate of Staff.
“Our AFIMSC workforce can be effective no matter their location,” he said.
Along with furniture remodels and adjusted floor plans, AFIMSC is investing in smart technology systems and cloud-based platforms to facilitate a work-from-anywhere model.
“We’ve proven that our work can be done anywhere,” Orozpe said. “We actually have better access now, thanks to technology, and I’m able to collaborate with my team and connect with our overseas customers more easily than I ever could before we shifted to working from home during the pandemic.”
A better work-life balance is another benefit of O2F.
“I think my quality of life has improved. Without a long commute, I get to see my family more often because I’m not fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic,” he said. “I can get up and running in about 10 minutes every morning, so that’s less stress and more time for work and family.”
As O2F is implemented, AFIMSC will gather information and data to establish a business case highlighting how the flexibility associated with the hybrid model has saved AFIMSC in time, money and resources and improved the overall employee experience. Leaders will also use data and lessons learned to improve O2F in real time and shape future rollouts, including other areas in AFIMSC headquarters and offices outside of San Antonio.
"Wherever you’re working within the AFIMSC enterprise, O2F applies to you too," Mantovani said. "We’re working with our detachments and primary subordinate units to make similar changes as budgets and the buildings allow."
In the long run, Mantovani believes O2F will serve as a benchmark across the Air Force as organizations consider permanently moving away from the old model of working five days a week in an office.
"We are the Air Force’s installation and mission support experts. We want to experiment inside our own house first but then, very shortly and quickly, we want to scale this across Air Force Materiel Command and the entire Air Force to any organization that wants to build an office of the future like us," he said. “As Airmen come back into buildings after the pandemic, what will that future look like? We believe O2F will be that future.”