In the world of Corporate Real Estate and Facility Management, Activity-Based Working has been quite a buzz word for some time now. But how does this concept impact your working environment? And is it a good or a bad thing?
Simple put, Activity-Based Working, is providing people with a choice of location for a variety of workplace activities allowing them to locate themselves where it is the most suitable for them to complete their work. Thereby the employees do not have a designated work station. Rather, the workplace holds a variety of areas where employees can carry out specific tasks including learning, focusing, collaborating and socialising.
The advantages of Activity-Based Working for Facility and Corporate Real Estate Managers
Activity-Based Working as a workplace strategy does not only allow for flexibility in the working style from the viewpoint of the individual. It also gives the Corporate Real Estate and Facility Managers the opportunity to contract and expand the workspace according to demand over time. And why is this important?
Traditionally, the bottleneck in any real estate and facility management strategy has been the future forecast of space needed one, two or more years ahead. By its very nature Activity-Based Working allows the organisation flexibility in space utilisation. Implemented across the whole real estate portfolio, rather than just one location, the organisation has the benefit of a more flexible and transportable workforce and potentially reduced real estate costs.
The company gains the ability to move employees around based on client demands without the need for re-stacking every time a new client or project is won, simply given the flexibility in work settings.
Flexibility and cost efficiencies are not the only benefits Activity-Based Working brings to the table though.
Sustainability is the other factor that can be positively influenced by this new workplace strategy.
We all know how important the improvement of sustainability profiles is for companies in all industries. It is also a well-known fact that the most organisations only report space utilisation rates of 60-70%, meaning that at any time 30-40% of the office space is vacant.
This is not a sustainable solution from either an environmental or a financial perspective. Too much energy in terms of lightning, heating and air-conditioning simply goes to waste. Allocating workspace to when and where employees need it might be a better solution for the company’s sustainability profile.
Activity-Based Working improves creative thinking and informal meetings
Evaluating the good and bad in Activity-Based Working should not only be viewed from the perspective of the Corporate Real Estate or Facility Manager. To succeed in our work, considering the needs and satisfaction of the end-users are at least as important.
Across a study sample of 598 workplaces, Leesman looked into the impacts of Activity-Based Working on end-user satisfaction and the results did not turn out to be completely black and white.
One tendency however was clear: Activity-Based Working improves creative thinking and informal meetings.
When considering creative thinking Activity-Based Working environments undoubtedly outperform most other environments for the majority of employees. Some workplaces even see significant gains over more traditional environments. This is particularly true for employees with higher mobility profiles.
When it comes to the informal meeting this is where Activity-Based Working strategies excel the most is. The Activity-Based workplace strategy manages to deliver higher employee satisfaction averages across all types of employees, ranking from those being anchored to their workstations to the employees that use multiple work settings and rarely base themselves at a single location within the office. Hence, if the enhancement and encouragement of informal meetings is one of the workplace objectives, Activity-Based Working environments has the potential to bring the company and the employees real benefits.
Activity-Based Working is a threat to individual focus
The Leesman study clearly showed that for employees performing most of their tasks at a single work setting and rarely use other locations within the office, Activity-Based Working environments performed less well in terms of employee satisfaction. On the other hand, for employees performing individual work away from their desk, the employee satisfaction rate increased by 20%. This is probably due to the fact that when implementing Activity-Based Working strategies, companies have more focus on adjusting their work settings in terms of technology etc. to complement the daily lives of the mobile workforce.
The other challenge is that Activity-Based Working is a true threat for personalisation of the workspace, as there really is not a place that employees longer can call their own.
This is despite the fact that several workplace psychologists over the years have argued that workspace personalisation is important for the productivity, efficiency and well-being of workers.
In conclusion, for Activity-Based Working to be relevant to your workplace, it must be relevant to the workforce – who they are and what they do at work. If your workforce consists of mobile employees rarely working at their desks, then Activity-Based Working environments can be a perfect solution to decrease the space utilisation costs, improve employee satisfaction and create cost efficiencies.
On the other hand, if your workforce is consisting of employees that need to have dedicated time to individually sit and concentrate on their work, then Activity-Based Working environments do not seem to be the best solution to improve your workplace profile as a company.
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