Don’t be afraid of Activity Based Working!

Workplace solutions
The work environment is constantly changing. Poland and the world as a whole are undergoing a transformation that has seen a younger generation of workers and modern technology come to the market. Today many people telecommute, often performing most of their duties remotely. So are modern offices adapted to the current needs of employees and fully set up for the latest business challenges?

The concept of Activity Based Working (ABW) entails making the office a flexible space that adapts to its users and the nature of their activities.

Hays, Kinnarps and Skanska are organisations for which the working space of different generations and temperaments is extremely important, although the emphasis is placed on its various elements. Our close, long-term cooperation with employers and office tenants on the Polish market has given us wide ranging experience and knowledge of their requirements.

We are aware of the current needs of companies, as well as the expectations of employees, with respect to work space. We can see that the modern office, which allows employees to choose their work space based on the nature of their work, is no longer regarded as something of a curiosity. Is the abandonment of the traditional concept of the office becoming a pre-requisite for organisations aiming at further technological development and openness to the diverse needs of their employees?

The rapidly progressing transformation of the work environment and the office standards applicable to it prompted us to conduct research into the arrangement of work space and its role in achieving companies’ goals and strategies for acquiring the best employees. In August 2016 we surveyed almost 100 companies employing a total of more than 50,000 people. Its publication is supplemented with the latest reports, conclusions and comments of experts.

A lot more than just interior design

The main topic of this report is the concept of Activity Based Working (ABW), which implies that what we call ‘office work’ does not have a single meaning, but consists of the various activities carried out individually or collectively, requiring different amounts of attention, time and space.

The most common mistake is to identify ABW with interior design. However, the space planned in line with this concept is only the most visible result of its implementation. According to ABW, the office is a tool for team management based on independence, autonomy and a willingness to embrace change on the part of the employees. In order to make full use of the opportunities offered by the office space it is necessary to have an organisational culture built on trust.

Therefore the main goal of the ABW concept is not to deprive employees of their own desks, but to carry out an in-depth examination of the nature of their work (current and planned) and identify the elements that are the most important. In modern offices the main idea is not to fit the largest group of employees into a specified space, but how to utilise the time and the potential of the employees using this space in the most effective way possible. Offices are primarily meant to facilitate cooperation and creative, productive interactions.

“The range of issues discussed in our common material illustrates perfectly the complexity of the space we popularly call ‘the office’ and prompts reflection on how the work environment is rather an underestimated business tool. Confronting the ABW concept head-on provides a strong impulse to gain a deeper insight into the way work is organised in a company and doing so frequently kick-starts the process of change. Its final outcome is an innovative enterprise whose trademark is working space that fulfils the needs and expectations of the members of all generations, enabling them to work according to their own preferences. It guarantees access to a diverse range of solutions as well as opening up opportunities to integrate teams and exchange experiences,” claims Beata Osiecka, the president and head of the CEE region of Kinnarps Polska.

“Questions about performing some tasks remotely or having flexible working hours are becoming standard during interviews. Employers should be aware that they cannot ignore the evolution taking place on the labour market. The companies that want not only to attract but also to retain the best employees should introduce changes that adjust the work environment to the needs of their employees. Currently, the great majority of companies offer their workforce private healthcare. However, it should be remembered that the second most important benefit for employees are flexible working conditions. In this year’s research conducted by Hays Poland, over half of the employees surveyed indicated that this element of a job offer is the most significant non-financial benefit that attracts them to employers,” explains Paula Rejmer, the managing director of Expert Perm at Hays Poland.

The office has never played such an important role in business development. Today, the place we work in needs to support the careers of professionals, to be an efficient recruitment tool, and thus strengthen the strategic business processes of the company. “An office has to be a place designed for the needs of employees of different generations. And ABW is an excellent approach for achieving this. It entails that employees reveal how they work and the employer then providing them with space fully consistent with their activity. This is the first approach to a working style that is that flexible – and this, as the experience of many global brands shows, translates into the increased efficiency and satisfaction of work teams. This pioneering report will allow employers to assess the extent to which the ABW idea is suitable for their own companies and whether they have an office adequate for its implementation,” concludes Ewelina Kałużna, the leasing and asset director of Skanska Property Poland.

Six reasons not to be afraid of ABW

  • The overall aim of ABW is not to deprive employees of their own desks, but to examine the nature of their work and identify the most necessary elements for it.
  • The purpose of the office is not to fit as many employees as possible in a specified area, but to use the space for the most effective use of time and to maximise employees’ potential.
  • Offices arranged according to the ABW concept feature a flexible work model, in which during the day the employees change their work- stations several times, according to the nature of the tasks performed as well as the employee’s own preferences and mood.
  • The implementation of the ABW concept does not require renting more office space. Changing the layout and arrangement enables the available space to be better utilised.
  • Arranging offices according to the Activity Based Working concept is no more expensive than a traditional office arrangement. Its flexible and multifunctional space results in a long-term reduction in the costs connected with the development of the company.
  • Making full use of the possibilities offered by the office space is only possible in an organisational culture based on trust and when this trust is exhibited by the company’s management staff.

The full version of the report: