Agile working environment takes over as preferred planning strategy, says workplace expert
Activity based working (ABW) is gradually becoming a workplace strategy of the past as more organisations implement agile working philosophies, according to Bligh Williams, workplace strategy director at Workplace Space Planning Solutions (WSPS).
Williams, who will speak at next month’s Total Facilities Expo on the latest workplace planning trends, believes the transition to agile working environments is the next step in the evolution of workplace strategies.
ABW, which became a popular planning method about five years ago, is a strategy where employees are able to choose appropriate workspaces for the various tasks they undertake instead of being assigned permanent workspaces.
Due to changing demands, as well as the realisation ABW is a bad fit for certain organisations, Williams says many of WSPS’ clients are now implementing an agile working strategy, which focuses on creating a flexible and productive environment for workforces.
As was the case with the ‘hot desk’ philosophy that came before ABW, Williams adds that the demands of today’s workplaces have forced the strategy to evolve to meet changing needs.
“Over the years we have gone from a traditional environment to a hot desking environment. Then hot desking became unpopular for the end user and we moved onto ABW – now that has supposedly become unpopular and we have moved into agile working,” Williams explains.
Williams, who has managed major workplace planning projects with clients like the NSW Treasury department, says some key lessons have been learned from the evolution of workplace strategies.
“One (lesson) that a few of the bigger organisations have experienced is a sharing ratio of people to desk, or people who work for them,” says Williams. “Where a lot of organisations thought they could go and share four or five people to one desk – in some cases eight people to one desk – it has been a dismal failure.
“When we are working with a client who is coming out of a completely traditional environment we tend to use a sharing ratio of 10 people to nine desks. We find that gives them a first step. If you are going to share at 90 percent that covers the holiday leave, the sick leave, and the employees out working with a client.”
Williams says organisations have also found that it is difficult to implement a newer philosophy into a dedicated silo workplace environment.
“All of the silos need to be communicating with each other because it is an integrated environment,” Williams says.
“With advances in technology, especially around wireless technology, tablets and smart phones, they have all of the tools to really make an environment agile. In an agile environment it is important to keep people connected so they can move to the different settings to complete their different activities during the day.”
While it is the agile environment that is emerging as popular for the moment, Williams is certain that workplace strategies will continue to evolve.
“Technology is a key driver (in the evolution), as well as the changing expectations of the employer,” Williams concludes.
Bligh Williams will present on ‘Agile Working, the New Activity Based Working’ at Total Facilities 2016 as part of the seminar program. Williams has been involved in the strategic development and implementation of agile work environments for NSW Treasury, plus a number of other private and public sector organisations across a range of industries. He has been involved in workplace planning for more than 10 years.