What to consider when moving to an Activity Based Work Environment?
Written by: Will Dodson (Yellow 6 Design)
First of all, an Activity Based Working (ABW) office is not intended for all types of work. With Technology being able to assist and take care of more routine tasks, giving more time to staff for more creative, problem solving tasks. This change means that the environment used needs to be designed to support a range of different activities. Therefore, rather than having strictly desks in an office, the broader workspace helps to provide staff with a variety of areas such as collab zones, quiet spaces, break out rooms and conference rooms that can be used when needed.
ABW not to get confused with Hot Desking, which is the idea of no-one being assigned a specific work station, but rather have the freedom to move around and work at any station. However this can create problems with desk shortages, finding staff and wasted time finding and setting up at a work station.
This style of work has been developed from the idea of how, students worked at school and university. The element of choice was used by students, having the freedom to choose what space suited the current task. For example at school using the laboratory for science, the gym for sports and the library for quiet study. This helps to change the idea of ownership at work, rather than the mindset of ‘Me’ we begin to share the spaces and ‘We’ work better in a collaborative sense.
It is important to incorporate the ‘Three Pillars’ of ABW when designing your office. The first being People, the second is Technology and the third being Spatial Elements. As you can have staff that are excited to use collaboration and quiet spaces, but if the technology limits them then the productivity of these spaces diminishes rapidly. It is thought that paperless is the best method with an investment into electronic records management, meaning that staff have the freedom to move around the office and still be able to have the same access as they would from their desks.
ABW is not designed for everyone, and many offices will choose not to incorporate this idea. However if your office does, it is vital that the leadership team adopts this change with support and an open mind. Helping employees to overcome their resistance to change with trust, communication and support.
Image of Gensler Office in San Diego, California, USA