How much do you value your own office/workspace area? What if it soon became a thing of the past? For many people their desk is a private enclave; a place to decorate with family photos and other personal mementos. Yet with the resurgence of shared work environments, employees may soon be saying goodbye to this personal space.
The concept of activity-based workplaces have been undertaken worldwide, and are based on the model used by the Dutch design firm, Veldhoen & Company in the early 1990s.
Its basic premise rids staff of their own desk or office space, to instead use collaborative spaces and meeting rooms, allowing staff to work in a team environment.
It’s predicted a growing number of Australian companies will adopt a desk-free workplace within the next five years. Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft and Macquarie Bank are just a few of the Australian companies already embracing this style of work environment. (source Sydney Morning Herald)
With the technological advancements in the workplace, including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as cloud computing and wireless internet access, people can now work on the go and away from the one desktop computer.
It seems words like open, shared, mobile and flexible may soon be used to describe our workspaces. For what appears to be an innovative change from the traditional office environment, is it worth uprooting the status quo? Let’s look at the pros and cons to the activity-based working model.
With less floor space and desks required in the office, it would enable employers to benefit from cost-savings in electricity, furniture, computer devices, along with the physical space-saving. A particular example of space saving would be in the case of different staff frequently out of the office on meetings.
Removing the traditional closed offices and cubicles would open up communication between staff encouraging a team-oriented workplace. Implementing activity-based areas in the office for collaborating, learning and other specific tasks could also promote productivity and creativity between staff.
Including management in this open workspace would also remove any hierarchical concerns, and further form this team-based, collaborative environment. The use of mobile technology also would allow staff the freedom of working in different times and locations.
A major concern to this model however, is in the resistance many employees may encounter towards these work environment changes. A personal office or workspace can become a home away from home for many workers, who add personal belongings to the area as a way of making the time spent away from loved ones more bearable.
This could therefore create issues for staff if this personal space was removed. Furthermore, if management didn’t include themselves in the open workspace and retained their large offices, it could create unwanted friction from their staff.
There is also a risk of diminished productivity from the collaborative working. Time wasting could arise from staff members continually working together, and communication easily shifting to non-work related topics. By undertaking the flexibility of activity based working and allowing staff to work at their own chosen time and place, could also make it hard for staff to separate work and personal life.
Finally, there is the risk from people working on the go and accessing files through a wireless system, of secure information becoming public knowledge.
So after weighing up the pros and cons, is this something you can envision for your company?