For a long time now, corporations and designers have been working together to look at how workspaces can be used more effectively to increase employee productivity and reduce space.
Over the past 5 years, mainly due to advances in IT and developments like cloud computing and smart boards, a firm and relevant move to more open-planned office environments has become more common.
Finally, after a long time in the wilderness and numerous well publicised failures (see ‘Lost in Space’http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/7.02/chiat_pr.html) ‘hot-desking’ and ‘hoteling’ are forming the basis of viable ideas. Advances in manufacturing and more modular and customisable furniture have aided this trend, allowing employees to reconfigure office furniture to suit their needs.
The activity based setup allows for the diverse range of work that takes place in an individual’s role and attempts to facilitate and support the varying levels of concentration and teamwork required. It provides different work spaces, stimuli and levels of group collaboration. In practical terms, this results in sections of each office floor being tailored to different activities. Some spaces are suitable for meetings and brainstorming other places are more quiet enclosures where personal work and thinking needs to be done. The exact implementation of the idea varies from organisation to organisation and is entirely dependant on the firm’s nature of work.
The cynic would argue that the possible 30% reduction in physical space requirements is the valuable commodity driving this trend. However, the setup has shown marked increases of worker productivity and employee satisfaction. Those who have initiated the change recommend taking it in stages. This allows for employee feedback in design and to facilitate a transition period into this vastly different and new style.
Will activity based working take over in the next 10 years? We believe that for all the benefits that come with job specific working environments and all the great technological improvements that are driving this trend, it’s equally important to allow for the individual’s role and their level of comfort through their own office chair, storage space, physical space and sense of belonging to the organisation. Overall, the answer probably lies somewhere in-between. What do you think?