Until recently, every employee always had their own individual workplace. Now there is an opportunity to break with this convention. How? By making offices elastic and linking different spaces to different activities.
Why? Because, generally speaking, all of those fixed workplaces are actually used for only 50 per cent of the time. This is a huge waste, not just in terms of square feet and sustainability, but also in operating costs.
If only in financial terms, there are opportunities for substantial savings in breaking with the convention of individualized work spaces.
Already there has been the advent of ‘open plan’, which saw the abolition of cellular space to be replaced by open (non-territorial) space. This saw the death of the regimented office with its mix of strict rows of desks and enclosed offices, resulting in better communication and more effective work relationships — not to mention cost-savings in office fit-outs.
The introduction of open plan began a process that has now largely done away with the spatial, temporal and psychological silos of the ‘industrial’ office. To reduce CRE costs, the introduction of ‘sharing’ in the form of hot-desking and hoteling was seen. It was quickly realised, however, that this was not an ‘either/or’ proposition: either an enclosed environment or a fully open one.
What mattered was the activity taking place and so what was needed was a spatial organisation that facilitated specific activities. What was needed was activity-based working (ABW). Some, for example, needed enclosure for acoustic reasons — private meetings or the need to concentrate away from the hustle and bustle of an open-plan office. At the same time, it began to be realized that the workplace was ‘multi-cultural’ in the widest sense of the word — a mix of ages, genders, ethnicities and personalities, all bringing with them different work styles and working best when given the opportunity to work in their own particular style.
Activity-based working is a concept that recognizes that, through the course of any day, people engage in many different activities and need different types of work setting and technology to accommodate these activities, both inside and outside the office.