The office of the future has arrived, but leave the Dilbert calendar at home and keep the pictures of the kids in your wallet.

Instead, consider a workspace shared with other employees reserved with a smart card and featuring a thin client, telephone and a handy canister of cleaning wipes. These

are ideal for use in hospitals, nursing homes and now, work stations like those on the seventh floor of Markham, Ont.-based Sun Microsystems of Canada.

For the last three years, Sun has been moving towards creating an office environment where those on the road or working partially from home can have access to e-mail and other applications, but without requiring the infrastructure associated with personal work spaces.

At the official opening of its new 90,000-sq. ft. facility Tuesday, Sun officials showed off a work environment that promotes “”anywhere, anytime on any device.””

Called the iWork Office initiative, it allows employees to operate from a variety of Sun offices, customer sites and from home by using a smart card to access e-mail and other applications located on a central server.

With about 60 per cent of Sun’s sales and service force out of their primary field office at any given time, use of space is limited to those times when employees need to attend meetings or catch up with paperwork. The company decided there was a way to maximize the use of office space, but still give employees a place where they could work when not on the road.

Based on the hoteling model, the Sun Reserve system provides employees the ability to log on with a smart card at a Sun Ray kiosk and reserve the space they need such as a meeting room, six by eight ft. cubicle or eight by 10 ft. enclosed office. From there they indicate when they want it, for how long and determine where things like copiers and other equipment can be located from the onscreen floor layout.

“”This is really amazing when you go to offices in California and are looking for a printer or fax and don’t know where anything is,”” said Gord Sissons, vice-president of products and technology, who does not have an assigned office. Instead, he says all he needs to do his job can be accessed with the smart card that contains a user ID and password.

This model for using office space may also be the true paperless office, as no one can keep files or papers on the desk beyond the time they have it booked.

“”It certainly encourages different practices in terms of handling paper,”” said Sissons.

The biggest challenge in moving to the iWork environment was change management, according to Garry Hagerman, regional workplace manager for Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc.

“”I dreaded the day I had to do it,”” said Hagerman, who acknowledges there is a lack of personalization in the iWork environment. However he doesn’t see a problem with forcing people to downsize the stuff they need to do their job. “”The easiest part was the physical space.””

Hagerman has weeded the contents of his own office to fit into two file drawers and a couple of shelves in a locker and utilizes a small rolling suitcase for when he’s on the road — something others will be encouraged to adopt in the future.

Hagerman’s team from workplace resources worked with human resources to ensure employees who would be offered the flex work space abided by the etiquette required.

But for others who travel extensively, like John Bush, IT operations manager with Sun, a file folder represents all the paper from his office. He hasn’t looked back.

“”You have to train yourself to work in this environment,”” said Bush.

Departments are clustered into “”neighbourhoods”” that allow people of the same working group to book space in the same area of the office layout.

The iWork capacity at the Sun building at 27 Allstate Parkway in Markham is 360 employees. That represents a potential ratio of 1.5 employees per workstation, said Hagerman.

The same system can be used to see if a colleague has also booked in to the office that day. Employees can also get locker space to store paper files and other materials.

In the near future, Sun hopes to extend the reservation system to other offices. For example, when employees in the New Jersey office want to go into Manhattan, they will be able to book into the city office. Following that, Sun is looking to expand to include offices worldwide.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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