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All you need to know about activity-based workplaces

Activity-based workplaces (or ABWs). They’re one approach to the modern office environment that represents a substantial change from what many businesses (and employees) will be used to.

While dedicated workspaces have been the norm for some time, new technologies are allowing companies to adopt entirely new ways of designing an office, including activity-based alternatives. Like many new workplace trends, however, it’s important for all companies to think seriously about whether or not they’re beneficial. To help, here is all you need to know about the new trend that is activity-based working.

Is this a new office approach businesses need to think about or simply another passing fad?

What is activity-based working?

At the most basic level, activity-based working means staff no longer have a set workspace. Instead, when employees come in for the day they sit down where it best suits them. For example, if someone in marketing is working with the graphics design team they’ll all convene on a island of desks to work together for the day.

It’s about as far removed as you can get from the traditional cubicle style offices of old.

Alternatively, staff may be out on the road as part of their job for the better part of most days, and returning to the office for the afternoon to complete some work with other members of the team. Instead of having them come out of a car and straight into a desk chair, they can work with their colleagues in shared, flexible spaces.

It’s about as far removed as you can get from the traditional cubicle style offices of old, but businesses appear to be taking notice.

A study from 2012, the Colliers International Office Tenant Survey, found in Australia at least one in three companies are implementing or at least planning to implement such approaches to working.

So, it’s obviously a great way to introduce some new types of office furniture into the workplace, but is it suitable for businesses?

Is it a good change for an office?

US fund management firm Goodman Birtcher implemented an activity-based working environment in 2012, after deciding it was the approach best suited to the business.

“ABW is a work model tailored to suit the operations of our business, integrating it with the influences of today’s technology and functional efficiencies within our physical environment,” the firm explained. “The concept of ABW is becoming increasingly popular as organisation are adopting flexible workplaces and practices.”

The organisation noted that primarily, increased collaboration among staff, flexibility in where they work (and how), and freedom and choice were the main benefits. The advantages of this approach aren’t confined to a specific type of company, flexible working arrangements can benefit most types of business.

When businesses are considering a major office fitout, activity-based working should serve as a benchmark. This is something that can drive the decisions the company makes when choosing furniture, new technologies and how the office should be structured. As an addition, choosing colours that bolster productivity for certain areas of the office could also be a consideration.

Taking advantage of activity-based working

It’s not altogether difficult to get started with this new approach to the office, as businesses will likely have staff willing to try it. The challenge comes from actually transitioning the office furniture across to the new style. Standard cubicles won’t do; new, connected furniture settings are essential.

It’s also necessary to turn an eye to technology. Activity-based working means staff will no longer have assigned desks, so the business needs to ensure that workers have the right technologies available to complete their work. Ultra-portable computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones are all good starting points, as they enable staff to simply work where they need to.

Finally, businesses need to consider whether or not this style of working is appropriate for their team. While sales staff could make great use of the trend, it’s unlikely a graphic design team would benefit from having to move their materials and set up their equipment every single morning.

Activity-based working is a new approach to the office, and it’s one that represents a significant change from what businesses are used to. However, it’s way of setting up an office that can allow staff to work more effectively together.

“Based on all of the experts and the studies, ABW is the way of the future for companies with a strong knowledge worker base and need to collaborate,” said Colliers International Research Director Felice Spark.

“The new ‘desk’ will be the tablet or iPad, allowing employees to work wherever they want, whenever they want, with greater mobility and flexibility.”

Get in touch with A1 Office today to learn more about how you can bring an activity-based working environment to your business through a new fitout.

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