The North Dakota Information Technology Department building – the state’s largest and most expensive office space – has been vacant over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s likely to continue that way. As most employees in the IT department have preferred working remotely, the Bismarck office building continues will continue to stay largely vacant.
The pandemic significantly impacted the way people worked. Different companies worldwide are embracing remote work. In the United States, various government departments have also experienced a big structural shift.
State employees were the first ones to start gradually returning to the office. For example, approximately 70% of 1,800 employees in the Capitol returned to the office. However, other departments, specifically the Information Technology Department, continue to embrace remote work strongly.
North Dakota IT Empty Offices
The 85,000 square foot Bismarck office building has been vacant even before the pandemic. In 2019 the IT Department started making renovations that finished in September of 2020. And the building is not only the largest, but it’s also the most expensive office space. It will cost the state the sum of the $3 million in rent over the next two years. One of the main problems with the new renovations and the lack of use of the building, besides its high costs, is that the lease expires in 2025.
Governor Doug Burgum told Forum News Services that this problem with unused office space is happening across many states and corporations. Their current challenge is in finding ways out of leases on properties they no longer use.
When the renovations were over, the entire department was under the remote work status. But now that returning to the office is possible, most employees continue to embrace flexible working.
CIO Shawn Riley told StateScoop that their offices would have a different use than what they did before the pandemic, and he thinks that 20% of the space would work perfectly for their needs.
Part of that building is set up for brainstorming sessions and think groups and those kinds of things. But we expect to be able to use one floor almost entirely for that, but enable it not only for us as IT, but open it up for anybody in the state.
Joe Morrissette, Office of Management and Budget Director, stated that there was a possibility of altering the stat’s office holdings. It was discussed during a legislative session; however, for most lawmakers, it’s too soon to make that type of decision regarding long-term space. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in the post-pandemic scenario.