The way we work is changing, and the role of office design is changing along with it. Over the last decade, we have witnessed a massive shift in the way people across the globe use technology to complete their daily tasks both at work and home.
Today’s worker’s book vacations, call for taxis, collect payments, pay bills and even control their homes with the touch of a button from their computers and smartphones.
These innovations we have now come to expect from our personal lives is starting to spill over into our work life, and people are now expecting this same convenience from their careers as well. Employees are wanting the freedom to work from anywhere, at any time and from any device.
Work is no longer is a place you go to. Work is about making things happen where you are and having the experience you need to get things done available on every device wherever.
“You need to be able to bring people together in networks that are no longer confined to organizational hierarchy.” Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella goes on to say.
A growing trend to address this fundamental workplace shift is activity based working. ABW attempts to create an office that promotes collaborations by giving employees an opportunity to work together while increasing productivity and keeping costs low. Rather than keeping workers closed off in cubicles, ABW looks to use transparent walls to improve teamwork and communication.
Benefits of ABW
The main benefit is, of course, the improvement in staff teamwork that should be experienced as a result of the change. A traditional office promotes a certain hierarchy by having opaque walls because it suggests a physical and mental wall between positions. However, ABW uses transparent walls which allows for greater communication between colleagues as well as with managers. The needs of the workplace have changed significantly in recent years, and ABW allows businesses to live up to expectations.
Furthermore, information will be shared more freely which will lead to improved creativity; potentially business-saving ideas. With walls between employees, they are less likely to discuss ideas but with ABW, they will not only discuss ideas but collaborate to work on them.
In addition to this, this new design also breaks down more than physical walls; for example, if communication is easier, less paper will be sent and time will be saved which saves the business money in all different areas. Computers will need to be on less and paper will be saved because notes and messages will no longer be needed. Although these sound like small changes but they soon add up and costs are pivotal to a business’ success.
Finally, ABW promotes movement which means less time spent at desks which, in turn, means that employees should suffer less chronic back problems and other health issues that come with office work. This means that employees will spend less time off work, and the business will become more efficient.
Drawbacks of ABW
Firstly, ABW uses non-assigned seating which can see a reaction from employees. People like to have their own space at home and at work and if this is taken from them, they get a feeling as though they don’t belong. Having specific ‘zones’ for each team can help with the confusion as workers still know where their group is.
Secondly, some workers will have spent years working solo so will take time to accustom to the group mentality. The solution here is to allow time and training to get used to the system as well as organizing events for the workers to get to know each other; the more they know each other, the more wiling they will be to settle into the new system.
Finally, the leader has to trust employees and make sure everyone is on the same level each day. Not only does the manager have to trust the employees that they will work with their colleagues, but they also have to ensure that all employees know where they are and what they should be working on.
Ultimately, a change to ABW may take time to implement and get right because it isn’t just moving a few pieces of furniture around, it is completely changing the mentality of a workforce. Before any change is made, all potential issues should be discussed and reviewed. If your business is capable, ABW really can bring a whole host of benefits; the positives outweigh the negatives and can turn your business around!