Enabling an Activity-Based Work Environment
— December 11th, 2020
COVID’s impacts are dominating the discussion of the future of the corporate office. This makes sense, as many businesses are embracing either full time remote work or hybrid working strategies, leaving office space largely underutilized for now. Yet, leaders are currently working to understand the best strategy for the “location of work” as well as in-office work settings for their business going forward. Face-to-face interactions will always have advantages over remote, no matter how quality the remote experience is. As we all wrestle to build the best “back to work” strategy, the needs of the future must also be thought of—what does our post-COVID work world look like and how will we prepare for it?
What is Activity-Based Work?
The answer is almost certainly a mix of a hybrid working model, one that incorporates a mix of working both at home and in a corporate office setting. Considering how the office environment is used is critically important as this hybrid model is established, and that basis is almost certainly a transition to Activity-Based Working (ABW). Simply, ABW is a model in which employees have the freedom to optimize their location for the work activity at hand. This could mean teams choosing to co-locate in a flexible office environment for the duration of their project, or individuals choosing a location closer to physical resources needed to complete their work—things like reserving space near software testing resources or simulated customer environments. There’s also a case to be made for employees needing access to dedicated conferencing equipment for extended engagements with teams spread out across the globe. And those are just a few examples of how employees may need to use your office space moving forward. ABW allows you to leave behind the dedicated, assigned desk model and prioritizes the needs of the work first, putting the power in the hands of your employees when it comes to determining which space within the office is ideal for them. Without a doubt, this is the right model for the future of corporate office use.
The Business Benefits of an Activity-Based Workspace
As modern office floorplans have evolved, many businesses have already been moving towards ABW practices. Think about office spaces with work settings that include dedicated collaboration spots in addition to traditional conference rooms as a prime example of how space utilization is being considered. Additionally, many modern office floorplans include spaces with group seating and shared resources such as whiteboards. These flex spaces also help break up the monotony of the workplace experience—desk to conference room, back to desk, back to conference room—that has defined the corporate office for decades. Many businesses have also instituted increasingly flexible work arrangements concerning location—in office, working at home, working offsite away from home—as these policies empower the employee to understand how they are most productive, and puts them in that position. It’s easy to see how employees would find this kind of flexible work arrangement attractive.
The business benefits of ABW are also clear. Activity-Based Work environments lead to a more efficient use of office resources—affording businesses to have fewer desks and fewer conference rooms, while simultaneously improving the utilization of those spaces and adding new degrees of freedom to office space design. On top of those benefits, it’s likely that a transition to this model will yield a reduced need for total square footage for your corporate offices—easing the burden of a major cost driver (if not the primary cost driver, alongside salaries) for businesses. And then COVID hit, which in some cases slowed the adoption of ABW policies. However, companies with the right workplace management technology were able to quickly adapt that technology to meet the challenges surrounding “return to work” planning.
Interested in learning more about how you can enable an ABW model in your office, or use ABW technologies to help safely bring your workforce back to the office? Let’s talk about how to get started. After you’ve conducted your internal focus groups to gather feedback, surveyed your employees and understand their sentiments, and begun a first pass at a transition plan, you’ll quickly realize that some key technologies are required. Prior to adopting an Activity-Based Work environment, you’ll need a flexible workplace management platform with the following capabilities:
- A system to manage bookable desk spaces—You’ll need to be able to understand what desks are available in what locations, manage those reservations, and track space usage against reservation data. And considering some of the COVID-caused challenges business will face, you’ll need an automated way to inform your cleaning staff about what desks were used, so the spaces can be properly sanitized.
- A system to manage bookable conference room space—Similar to the above, you’ll need a platform that can integrate with sensor technology to inform your business how many people are making use of rooms with what capacity. You’ll want to be able to tell if two people are using a room with a 20-person capacity, or if eight people are using a four-person room—to ensure your spaces are used efficiently.
- Analytics reporting capabilities—To comprehend the use of resources, both desks and conference rooms, and help real estate decision makers allocate/de-allocate space based on observed data.
- A mobile reservation app—That puts the power to reserve spaces in the hands of your employees, allowing them to book the space they need according to the projects they are currently working on.
On that last point—the value of a mobile application designed with user adoption in mind can’t be underestimated. Anyone who’s ever rolled out an enterprise-wide software solution loses a bit of sleep after launch as they continually refresh usage statistics hoping that their intended users engage with the software they bought. And, end-user expectations (in this case, your employees) couldn’t be higher. Every successful consumer-targeted application in use in the world focuses heavily on creating an excellent user experience. Consumer software, particularly mobile, sets user expectations high—so corporate software that enables ABW models has to achieve this same standard.
Another point that can’t be overestimated is integration—your offices have a “platform” of applications that manage the workplace environment, and those applications have all been knitted together to form the basis on which your office environments function. Adding the above desk and conference room booking capabilities plus the analytics data generated from reservation and usage must connect seamlessly into that platform. This is what enterprise-class software is all about—integrations that share data to create a unified view of all related data, as well as helps you create a unified employee experience. It’s flat-out a requirement as CIOs consider how to best adapt to changing workplace needs.
How SmartSpace Global Can Help with Your ABW Plan
At SmartSpace Global (an FWI (Poppulo) company), we’ve been busy building out the technology that businesses need to successfully make that transition to ABW. We have the desk and conference room booking capabilities, analytics capabilities, and the UX-focused mobile app that can make your transition to ABW a success. We’ve taken this journey with customers pre-COVID to help them reduce their real estate costs, and now we are taking this journey during COVID to help customers make their “return to work” efforts a success as they implement hybrid working at double speed reacting to COVID needs
Presently, the business world is focused on the health and safety needs of their employees as “return to work” planning must encompass those needs—which is absolutely the right move. We stand ready to help you with this need. The excellent thing about solving this challenge with SmartSpace Global is that you can also use that same solution to help solve your transition to ABW as you modernize your workplace and how your employees engage with it.
Are you looking down the road and seeing ABW in your future? Are you looking at solving a challenging “return to office” need now? We can help with both. Reach out, let’s talk… you need a technology solution for these challenges, and we’re eager to provide the help you need.
Thanks for taking the time to read this today, I hope you found it valuable.
Chief Marketing Officer
Four Winds Interactive