The Activity Based Workplace

by CoyDavidson on November 28, 2011


The Changing Nature of Work

Many of the past assumptions and rules of the workplace are being challenged as companies address five key drivers that are impacting corporate real estate.

  • Information and communication technology
  • Culture, management style and patterns of work
  • Demographics
  • Sustainability
  • Occupancy Costs

Many companies have already started to experiment with flexible or new ways of working. When GPT Group retooled their office in Sydney’s CBD, 15 percent of employees were left without a desk. 320 employees share 272 workstations, equipped with a  monitor and docking station for laptops.

Businesspeople working on laptop in an office.

Activity Based Working

Activity-based workplaces revolve around creating a workspace that is less hierarchical and fosters collaboration, personal accountability and flexibility. The workplace is designed to accommodate the various activities that office workers undertake rather than have a rigid allocation of space based on a person’s status in the hierarchy of the enterprise.

The activity based workplace strategy is different than hoteling or hot desking typically utilized by accounting or consulting firms where employees spend the majority of the time outside the office. In the activity based working environment workers are not assigned a permanent or particular type of workspace; rather they choose the appropriate workspace for the activity undertaken. The employee may choose a private and quiet location to complete a particular task or conversely may select an open workstation environment when working within a team on a particular project.

New digital technology is emerging that will change the nature of how, why and where work is done. The biggest barrier to eliminating the dedicated desk has been paper and while people will still always use paper, today it is not a given that it must be stored at the desk or within dedicated workspaces.

The advent of cloud computing and mobile devices allows us to move away from personal desktop technology, paper and personal files that have anchored the worker to his or her desk.  The ability to be mobile within the office allows us to work more collaboratively and in less overall space than previously. These new trends come at a time when companies are looking at ways to make their real estate footprint more efficient. I don’t need to remind you where real estate costs rank as an overhead item and this is now under the microscope as companies’ look to grow their headcount without taking the same volume of additional office space as years past.

Today, there are four generations of workers in the enterprise. The pace of change may not be exactly rapid, but certainly as Generation Y increasingly populates and influences the workforce, the nature of the workplace is certain to evolve.

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  • Hello Coy, thanks for sharing your insight, perspective and knowledge on valuable articles.
    I am becoming a big fan reader of yours!

    Louise Montgrain – Montreal

  • Louise, I really appreciate the comment and you taking the time to read my blog.

  • this blog is too good.I like content of this post.

  • Great article – I am a great believer in creating activity based workplaces. Have you ever heard of Belbin he has some very interesting theories on group work and how to get the best out of employees?

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