Is Activity Based Working Right for Your Office?
While your design team may thrive in an open, collaborative space to bounce ideas off one another to bring great product and brand designs to life, your HR department needs private spaces to talk to employees about sensitive issues.
Your employees have different needs. Your internal departments have different needs. And you have to make sure that every individual and departmental need is met. If you haven’t found an office design that meets everyone’s needs and allows them to be the most efficient at their jobs, then you might want to look into activity based working.
Benefits of Activity Based Working
Activity based working (ABW) simply means there are no assigned desks or workstations. It’s a flexible workspace, which is a must-have for diverse companies.
Rather than being confined to a desk, ABW allows your employees to choose how, where and when they work, which enables them to be more effective at their jobs and makes your company as a whole more effective. Offering every type of employee and department the right work settings and technology accommodates every task, project and activity in your office, while creating a more modern, mobile working environment that’s needed for today’s tech-savvy employees.
Having this variety of workstations – open tables, glass-wall conference rooms, couches, chairs, standing desks, etc. – that employees can use for meetings and brainstorming sessions also means there’s better team collaboration. When your employees can – and actually want to – get together to collaborate and share ideas, it helps drive innovation within your company. And more innovative ideas help you stay ahead of the competition.
We all know a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to our health. ABW means less sitting, because you’re not confined to sitting at one desk where the only time you get up is to eat lunch and use the restroom. As you get up and move around more during the workday, more blood pumps to your brain, which increases your concentration and engagement.
When companies support different types of behavior and activity in the office – with the right environment and tools – productivity and efficiency increase, as well as office morale.
A productive, successful office with happy employees and the latest tools is the kind of office employees want to work at. So in that way, ABW will also help you attract and retain employees.
How to Be Successful When Transitioning
If you’re going to successfully transition from a fixed workstation to ABW, there are a handful of things you need to do.
First, figure out if it's relevant to your company. ABW isn’t for every organization. It works best for mobile workforces, which could be your entire company or just one or two of your departments.
Next, you need to collect the necessary data: how your company currently works, how office space is being used, if spaces are over- or under-utilized, the number of mobile and remote workers, etc.
You should also review your company goals. Do culture and IT audits. Send out a staff survey to learn what’s currently working and what’s not in your office.
Look at your financials. Compare what your office and office space are costing you now vs. what the costs associated with a flexible, shared space would cost you, such as furniture and equipment costs and cost per employee. Some companies already implementing ABW workspaces have seen a 20-30% drop in real estate costs.
A lot depends on your facilities managers. In an activity based workplace, the space has to support different activities, i.e. ad-hoc collaboration and project work and information sharing.
Along with ensuring that the physical and virtual collaborative environments are working, a company's focus tends to shift to behavior. For ABW to be successful, this thinking has to start at the top, with the company executives. Once they have a clear vision of this new workspace design, they can tell the rest of your office why the change is happening and how it’s going to directly affect and benefit each employee.
They’ll also need support from the HR and IT departments, to provide necessary training and tools to support this transition.
Once you remove any misunderstandings that employees have about new ways of working, create awareness and build desire within each employee, it’s going to be a much smoother transition.
How to Tell if ABW is Right for Your Office
ABW isn’t right for everyone. If everything we’ve told you sounds great but you’re still unsure if you should transition to this working environment, here are five ways to know if your office is ready.
- You’re not getting the most out of your employees and departments.
- You’re about to move to a new location or open a new office.
- You have numerous remote workers and employees who spend a majority of their time off-site, traveling and meeting with clients and/or have a work-from-home policy. (During normal business hours, 66% of office workspaces are unoccupied.)
- You’re in need of an environment that increases employee creativity.
- You’re in a competitive industry and are looking to recruit and retain the best new talent.
When it's done right, ABW empowers your employees with trust, technology and various types of working environments. When they can move freely about their work environment while remaining connected, they're bound to be more productive, both individually and as a team.
So if you’re debating whether or not the transition is for you, ask yourself and your employees this: Would you rather have a desk with your name on it, or freedom of choice?