How Activity-Based Work (ABW) helps business achieve more
By Samsung Australia, 05.08.2015.
Activity-based working (ABW) is a concept designed to dissolve personal ownership over a working space and encourage collaboration. It has the potential to increase productivity and reduce overheads, and may well be how offices operate in future – Telsyte research shows that two-thirds of Australian companies aim to adopt ABW by 2020.
ABW allows businesses to rethink traditional office environments by dividing workplaces into 'activity' areas, rather than giving everyone their own desk. For example, the office can be split into a silent reading/working area, common area, telephone station, meeting place, etc., with each area tailored to support its designated activity. ABW also enables staff to work from home with technologies such as cloud platforms for project management and data access. But what are some of the practical benefits for businesses?
One of the greatest benefits of ABW is knowledge sharing. By removing the need to give each employee their own desk, businesses encourage workers to interact with one another, as well as share and receive feedback and ideas about work, which can boost communication and lift productivity. In this way, ABW can help businesses distribute useful knowledge across departments, as employees from particular disciplines are no longer siloed in particular parts of the office.
ABW holds great potential to improve productivity in businesses. The Telsyte Australian Digital Workplace Study 2015 shows that the average ABW worker can be 16 per cent more productive than their counterparts in traditional office environments. The study also claims workers in activity-based environments are more satisfied with their jobs.
Most businesses will need to invest an initial cost outlay to ensure the workplace is ABW-ready. The Telsyte Australian Digital Workplace Study 2015 also shows that employees found mobile devices, such as smartphones, notebooks and tablets, most useful in preparing them for an ABW environment. The same report also revealed that enabling an activity-based worker only costs 7 per cent, on average, more than a traditional employee.
But this investment may well be a sound one. Telsyte found that more than three in five organisations (61 per cent) see ABW workers as more valuable to the business than traditional counterparts. One-quarter of the companies surveyed said they saw a return on investment within 12 months, while 41 per cent reported an ROI in between one and two years. The average ROI time was 15 months.
Companies may also see an immediate financial return when adopting ABW as they can move to smaller offices with lower leasing costs.
Manage cultural expectations
While ABW can lower costs and improve productivity, some companies will encounter resistance to change among staff, especially with regard to each employee's personal space. However, a slow integration process can help people comfortably adjust to their new work environment.
One way to get started is to rotate desks, which should shake workers' sentimental attachment to their space. It's also worth reiterating that ABW allows for both solo and team work – a well-established activity-based office will allow workers plenty of opportunities to work on their own, as well as with colleagues.