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Q&A With Karren Jamaca, Space and Relocation Manager

As the woman in charge of OP’s space planning and relocations, Karren Jamaca runs a tight ship. It must be her army background.  Or maybe it’s the years spent working in hospitals – including six years as a pathology assistant who helped perform autopsies. At any rate, she’s not a fan of cubicles piled high with old computer equipment and files dating back to the Carter Administration. Which explains why she came up with Operation Clean Sweep, the twice yearly program in which she and her staff provide recycling bins, dumpsters and labor, and all you have to do is get rid of your old junk.

We caught up with Karren in her colorful – and entirely junk-free – office on the 7th floor, where she is working on the best  configuration for OP office space now that the reorganization is nearly complete.

Has there been a lot of change and movement because of the restructuring?
There has been quite a bit – people changing jobs, departments morphing, programs being eliminated. The moves are going to pick up now that the restructuring process and the space plan is just about complete.

Why are the moves necessary?
We’re saving money by eliminating some leased space. And departments need to be organized more logically. Student Affairs and Educational Partnerships, for instance, need to be together.

In other cases, we’re reconfiguring offices to create an atmosphere that encourages more open and creative ways of working at OP. The BRC wanted lower cubicle walls so they could easily talk to one another. IR&C requested bullpens because they need to collaborate most of the day, and Communications is being reconfigured so that people can work in one big open space, kind of like a newsroom, with managers working side-by-side with their staff.  IR&C and Communications both requested open space because it’s encourages brainstorming and creativity. It doesn’t mean other departments will be forced to do that.

Why are we spending money to reconfigure offices when there is a budget crisis?
Some people think it’s frivolous and it makes them angry. But the reality is we are making every effort to save money by consolidating space.  If we can move people together, we can give up some leased space.  The other thing to remember is that the impact of restructuring has left some floors almost entirely empty, with others squeezed together almost beyond capacity.  It costs money to operate space whether it is occupied or not.  And as I mentioned before, changing office configurations can go a long way toward helping people work more effectively, more collaboratively.  In essence, it can improve morale.

Will a lot of people move offices?
VPs ask me all the time: Are we moving? The answer is: possibly. There’s going to be a lot of movement within the next few months. Once the departments are situated, then there are always the small, individual moves. There’s always something going on in the space and relocation business.

Why don’t we consolidate people from the Kaiser Building into the Franklin Street building?
There are about 400 people in the Kaiser building, and we have 50 spaces open at Franklin.  As I mentioned before, we are consolidating other leased space and will continue to review where we might achieve other savings.

What’s the most difficult part of trying to figure out all the space issues?
There aren’t enough offices.  And everyone wants an office. One of the most common concerns I hear is having to put managers in cubicles, rather than offices.  Yet more and more, some managers are realizing there are advantages in moving out of their offices into common spaces closer to their staff.  This further reflects the change in the way we are working at OP.

Is it frustrating trying to figure out how to make it all work?
This job is big fun for me, I love the puzzle work.  We try to give people as much individuality (in their space) as we can. People think relocating is a chance to redecorate. They want to know if they can order furniture from IKEA, or they put up fire hazards like room divider screens or rugs. Or they ask if they can come to our retail warehouse and select their office furniture. The answer is no. We have furniture standards and we assess what will work in their space.  I can’t let everyone bring in their living room furniture.

Is there an easy way to locate where departments have moved to?
Not yet. Signage will be updated. It’s coming, but not until the relocations are complete.

What are the biggest misconceptions you deal with?
People get us (Building Services) confused with Facilities Administration. They’re not the same thing. We handle local Office of the President matters related to building management, janitorial services, landscaping, space planning and leasing. Facilities Services manages UC real estate across the University system.

What’s happening with the vacant lot on Broadway? Is UC still planning to build there?
It’s privately owned. A developer has plans for a 20-story building, but isn’t going to build until there are enough tenants. When they do build, it’s going block the view.  People are not going to like to like that!


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  1. Jennie September 28, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for this interesting (and frank) interview.

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