If you Google the term Activity-Based Workplace, you soon encounter many people’s greatest work-related fear: not having a desk of their own. A person’s desk is the place where they feel secure and able to work in peace. Sanna Edmundsson, Head of Coor Advisory, argue that many people get hung up on that issue when they try to learn about what an Activity-Based Workplace really is. “There are a lot of misunderstandings about the concept itself and what its core idea is,” she says. “Many interpret it as saving space—which is just one part of the package, and sometimes not at all the reason for transitioning to an activity-based workplace. Overall, it’s about creating sustainability and well-being by viewing the workplace as a strategic tool in management group issues, such as employer branding and productivity matters.”
We need to open our eyes and understand that activity-based working is about building a workplace based on the methods, visions and values of the company, and thus contributing to well-being and productive employees.
From the company’s perspective, activity-based offices are more flexible and sustainable. You can compare it with making the walls stretchy. It can create a pleasant atmosphere at the office whether it has very few people or very many. Not only that, the office can take in new recruits and adapt to organizational changes without needing to adjust the office environment. Another perspective is that it minimizes resource consumption, which perfectly fits the sustainability strategy. Sharing spaces, furniture and tools ought to be a hygiene requirement today when we have already used up many of the Earth’s resources.
The 5 most common misunderstandings about ABW
- I have to be at the office before 7 in the morning, or I will end up doing all my work in a sofa
- I cannot collaborate with my team if we don’t sit next to each other
- I will need a very big locker to store all my stuff I must have every day to do my job
- The amount of focus desks planned for the new office will never be enough
- I will get more sick if I have to share desk with my colleagues
Today, 55% of professionals state that the set-up of their workplace inhibits their productivity. We know that the number of people going on stress-related sick leave has increased fivefold in recent years. At the same time, 90% of Sweden’s employers say that they work with sustainability, and people’s well-being is a part of that. Something in our working situation has to change, and Sanna’s team at Coor advises customers and businesses on this daily. “It is not just the responsibility of the employer, but we clearly see that employers who take responsibility for these issues get a boost in popularity among applicants on a highly competitive job market. Done in the right way, an activity-based approach that really works is an invaluable tool for the modern employer. If you do it very well, it can enhance loyalty and brand awareness.”
From the individual’s perspective, the greatest benefit is freedom and more options to choose from. People thrive and are motivated by being able to make their own decisions and having the opportunity to choose for themselves (according to Self-Determination Theory (SDT), Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan), and that’s just what activity-based workplaces aim to achieve. The employees get extra flexibility and can choose the environment they need to work in depending on their tasks and the coworkers they want around them when doing them.
What is the greatest success factor when transitioning to an activity-based workplace?
“If a company aims to go through the transition to an activity-based workplace, the greatest challenge is getting all the employees behind it,” Sanna says. “Every employee is an individual, and by nature humans don’t like change. In addition, everyone has different needs for their workplaces, so it’s important to pay attention to that. This alone demands that the management has done their homework and understands the purpose of the transition, and that they all support a clear decision. To succeed with activity-based working, everyone must adopt a new behavior, which must become instinctive. That’s a process that can take several years.”