What is Activity Based Working?
Activity Based Working (ABW) creates the opportunity for organisations to rethink how work contributes to the overall strategic objectives of the organisation and recognises that work is something that you do, rather than a specific place where you need to be. The Activity Based Working concept acknowledges that people perform a whole range of different activities to complete tasks and therefore they need to be empowered to choose their environment and the supporting technology needed to complete those tasks most effectively.
The key characteristics of Activity Based Working include;
- The collection of data which informs analysis of the activities that employees undertake.
- Better alignment of the working environment with the wider organisational objective.
- Improved opportunities for harnessing technology and digital collaboration within the workspace.
- Greater scope for unallocated space which discourages departmental or organisational silos and encourages place independence.
What are the benefits?
Activity Based Working creates an environment which develops a strong culture of communication and interconnection which in turn leads to improved morale, accountability, trust and improves staff development through the effective sharing of knowledge and best-practice. It focuses attention on staff enablement and empowerment rather than physical presence and it aligns behaviours and activities more effectively with the wider organisational endeavour.
At an organisational level, Activity Based Working creates a more flexible infrastructure which enables organisations to scale and re-shape more easily and develops faster and more inclusive decision-making.
Are there any challenges?
As with any organisational development there are going to be challenges. These can be organisation-specific, but the important ones include;
- The absence of proper digital infrastructure. For Activity Based Working to be successful, companies need to ensure that the technology is in place to ensure staff can locate people when needed, book meeting rooms easily and stay connected with important company information whenever they need to. The development of this technology is a significant investment and requires specialist information system design expertise to ensure it is properly integrated with the way the organisation functions.
- A lack of staff support for the change process. Any large-scale organisational development requires change management expertise for successful implementation. Requiring staff to move out of their comfort zone, leave their personalised workstation into a working environment which is more mobile and less siloed means that there needs to be strong and visible support for the new working model from the most senior level within the organisation. Strong and consistent communication about the reasons for the change, frequent progress updates with staff and clear and open channels for feedback will be important in overcoming resistance.
- Lack of collaboration between departments at project implementation stage. Aligning the priorities and work programmes of HR, IT and Operations through the project implementation phase will be important for successful project implementation. The management of the teams of each of these departments must facilitate open dialogue between their teams and consistently promote the primary objective: creating a workplace model that enhances the employee experience.
- The design of the workspace itself. Activity Based Working gives staff more flexibility, freedom of choice and should facilitate a more open collaborative work experience. Just as having the right technology and digital infrastructure in place is important for success, the design of the physical environment will need the right design characteristics. Collection of impartial data, meaningful data analysis and expert design interpretation will all be required to inform a design brief for successful Activity Based Working.
How can it integrate with broader business transformation?
For organisations to thrive and grow there is an implicit commitment to organisational transformation and the change process. This can evolve over a long period, but sometimes involves a project or piece of work to achieve a specific organisational goal. Many organisations see cultural change as the foundation for improved productivity, faster and smarter development of innovative products and services and improved bottom-line performance. For many staff, changing office location or changing working model is the most visible expression of change within an organisation and this means that Activity Based Working projects are often successfully integrated into a wider organisational transformation process.
NHQ and Activity Based Working.
NHQ have a proven methodology for successful Activity Based Working design and implementation. Our experts have the experience needed to bring intelligent Activity Based Working design solutions to clients across the industry spectrum from financial services and insurance to media and the creative industries. View our recent project for Arts Alliance Media