Tied up to a chair in your office? Try Activity Based Working.

When we think about an office, the first image that flashes in our minds is that of a crowded desk place where people are busy gawking at their screens. This is what we know an office to be. However, of late there has been an increasing shift in this image of an office.

Two decades ago, we saw the emergence of open plan offices and hot desks (and by ‘we’, it’s meant the developed continents like Europe and Australia, as for India, the experimenting started much later).

These open plan offices and hot desks, largely aimed at creating a less stressful and more productive work environment by breaking the conventional hierarchies of traditional offices. Over years, companies worldwide have realized the need to break the monotony of a traditional office and foster what is commonly called an activity based workplace.

Activity Based Working (ABW):

Activity based working is based on the premise that the employees should be able to choose how, when and where they work. In an office, that means a choice of design interiors and seating type tailored according to the tasks one performs.

Rather than having a designated workstation, in an ABW environment employees have a broader workspace with a variety of predetermined activity areas that allow them to conduct specific tasks including learning, focusing, collaborating and socializing.

In an average ABW based office there is a mix of team desks, quiet rooms, meeting rooms and recreational spaces. There is also an adequate balance of ergonomic desks and chairs, comfortable sofa, standing desks, bean bags, etc, encouraging employees to work totally at their convenience. Currently, Australia is the leading country in the world to adopt ABW.

Activity based working breaks down the hierarchical role-based working environments and empowers more people to work on projects that require cross-functional skills. ABW is not simply working from home or a remote location, rather the elements of ABW can be applied to any location.

According to the Telsyte Australian Digital Workplace Study conducted in 2015, the growth of Activity Based Working in Australian organisations will increase from 28% in 2015 to 66% in 2020.

Not Just A Physical Solution

Activity Based Working is not just an interior design gimmick or a physical solution. It is an approach to designing and setting up functional and productive offices.The three things ABW is based on are :

  1. Design Interiors, which includes furniture, lights and colors
  2. Technology, including the essentials like laptops and phones for dynamic working places, and the most important of all
  3. Human behavior.

A great ABW environment is achieved with an optimal balance of these three. Along with being replete with shared and comfortable working environment and ample technological access, a successful ABW must also be relevant to the workforce. Strategies  such as providing support (emotional and functional), control and communication, promoting employee connections and a sense of belongingness, etc  are essential in developing trust and should be emphasised in an ABW.

Why Activity Based Working?

By working activity based, you condition your mind and body to get the most out of time and space and the good thing is, you get better at it every day.

Telsyte research in Australia found that activity-based working adds value in 61 percent of organisations that have adopted it and, on average, the productivity of an activity-based working employee is seen as 16 percent more than a regular employee. This is equivalent to an extra 6.4 hours per week per ABW employee.

productivity of an activity-based working employee is seen as 16 per cent more than a regular… Click To Tweet

Various leading global organizations like Google and Microsoft have undertaken Activity Based Working to remove the tie that binds the office worker to their desks. Some of the common benefits that these organizations have achieved are:

  • Better employee productivity: With the availability of areas where you can sit alone and work, comes improved concentration, which leads to higher quality of output.
  • Lower real estate and fixed costs:  By enabling a more mobile workforce, including hot desks in the office, organizations can reduce their office space requirements and costs.
  • Lower operating expenditure (e.g. power savings): Since ABW encourages sharing of resources, the operating cost automatically comes down and you ‘pay for what you need’.
  • Higher job satisfaction: When the environment is conducive, your job seems like a breeze. ABW gives a higher sense of ownership and thus increases an employee’s trust in his/her organization.
  • Better communication:  ABW improves information sharing and knowledge collaboration, thereby reducing the time of spent on long meetings.
  • Better customer engagement: Another key benefit from activity-based working is in customer engagement. Since all the departments collaborate and network more often, everyone has a better knowledge of customer requirements.

Thanks to the progressive approach and far reaching benefits, activity based working has a bright future in the coming years.

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