Activity-base working evolves into activity-based clustering
Fluidity and flexibility are defining words in the smart building lexicon.
Technology, the way we work and even the types of jobs that we will be doing are evolving and changing. Buildings and workspaces need to move with them.
Imagine a building that can enable the way you want to work that day or even that hour. A combination of quiet space, collaboration space, meeting rooms and ad-hoc community areas are key features of these buildings.
But the idea that you can choose a place to work that suits what you need to do that day is not new.
Gijs Nooteboom, managing partner at Veldhoen and Co, was one of the pioneers of activity-based working (ABW) when he was involved on a project in The Netherlands in 1997. His belief was that in order to truly create changes in working behaviour, the company culture would need to change first.
So how is the next generation of buildings going to take ABW to the next level?
With technology and smart devices, a building can start to gather data on occupancy and usage. For example, usage data can identify how many people have used a meeting room over a year, with peaks and averages, to assess if it needs to be redesigned to suit the business.
This approach can enable the efficient and optimal use of every part of an entire building.
In addition, the data can then support workers’ requirements for specific types of space. It can identify under-utilised areas, if a zone is not being used the way it should be or if it needs changing.
This is why technology is such a vital part of workplace strategy. The kind of people-analytics data produced by badge-holders will help organisations to proactively experiment, and to provide answers to the questions that they are posing about how their buildings are used and how to get the most out of them.
On a simpler level, ABW creates another kind of challenge. If you can sit anywhere it is harder for people to find you. The old way of locating people in a building has gone, but now workplace apps can locate someone in the building and then show you the way to find them.
But is ABW working? Macquarie Bank has been a trailblazer in terms of groundbreaking buildings and new ways of working. It introduced ABW in its Shelley Street building in Sydney about five years ago, and was swiftly followed by other organisations that also saw the benefits.
However, we are now seeing some organisations moving away from individual choice and truly flexible working, towards a new way of team working where the emphasis is on reinforcing team culture and group cohesiveness.
For effective collaboration and communication, it is often better for teams to sit together. Some larger organisations are already addressing the challenge of teams by use of ‘homezones’ in their smart buildings.
While still supporting ABW, groups and teams are allocated a zone on a particular floor. They can choose to work in a zone or somewhere else with a different team, depending on the work they are doing.
With the next evolution in technology they expect to be able to find a seat in the ‘homezone’ and identify the location of co-workers all through the app.
The advantages of agile working and ABW can be incredible. This style of working can produce the cross-pollination of ideas and fast business decisions that only the serendipity of bumping into someone by the lifts, or ending up at the next desk to a colleague from out of town can produce.
ABW is the realisation that one size does not fit all. But we predict that it will now evolve into activity-based clustering (ABC), shaped by the positive attributes of activity-base space with the move from individual to group, cluster, community and team.
Future smart working will be more aware of the needs of the team, as well as bringing huge benefits to the individual and the organisation, if used the right way.
This article is an excerpt from the Schneider Electric report titled, Activate to Collaborate – The Evolution of the Smart Workplace.