Activity based workplace

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Find information and a video to better understand the activity-based workplace (ABW) approach.

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Understanding the activity-based workplace

Activity-based working is a design concept that recognizes that through the course of any day, employees engage in many different activities and that they need and can choose different types of work settings to accommodate these activities. This type of work environment is known as the activity-based workplace (ABW).

In these workplaces individual employees are not assigned to a particular workstation. To make work effective, efficient and more enjoyable for both the organization and the employee, ABW focuses on the employees and provides the freedom to decide for themselves: how to work, where to work, which tools to use and with whom to collaborate to get the work done. The workspace is designed in such a way that it allows them to perform different activities over the course of the workday, such as:

Information technology and information management

A key element of an ABW is a strong virtual environment (information technology and information management) which supports mobile, collaborative and remote working. It is designed based on an assessment of employees’ activities and the organization’s programs and culture. Each group’s requirements and work styles can vary, and the ABW concept is flexible enough to be adapted to the needs of each organization.

Since you are not assigned a personal workstation, you have the freedom to choose the workspace that best suits your needs and preferences at any given time! The various types of workspaces are designed to accommodate different activities, such as having a confidential phone conversation, working with a small group of colleagues, or videoconferencing with multiple participants in various locations.

Culture change

This new way of working is not only about the workplace design. It is a cultural change that requires the integration of 3 major elements:

the people:
culture, business processes, behavior, attitude, organizational changes, training, human resource policies.
the technology:
updated information management systems, self-service tools, Wi-Fi, mobile devices, videoconferencing, document sharing.
the space:
building, interior design, furniture.

These elements may remind you of the three pillars from the Workplace 2.0 traditional design. Both the ABW and Workplace 2.0 approaches promote collaboration, flexibility, mobility and green ways of working. ABW pushes the concept to a new level, with a particular focus on empowering employees to choose the work settings or points that best suit their needs and the work they do. This approach also encourages management and executives to manage based on output and not employee presence, which fosters a climate of trust between employers and employees.

Video: Activity-based workplace

Transcript of the video: Activity-based workplace

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Narrator: Maybe you've heard some buzz around the activity-based workplace. You're probably wondering what it's about.

Well, activity-based workplace is about creating a work environment customized to the needs of people. It is about creating the best circumstances for each activity that employees perform each day. But workplace modernization is not just about the space. It is about the balanced integration of the physical space with the right technological tools and the adoption of an innovative and progressive culture. It is when these three components work together that we build modern and flexible work environments that enable organizations to meet their goals or to achieve their vision.

When we assign each employee to a desk (whether in an office or in a cubicle), there is an expectation that this is where they "work". Things are changing and we need to change the way we work to keep up. Work should no longer be seen as a place you go, but rather as a thing you do. With the technology that enables us to be mobile, and with the increasing need for collaboration, assigned desks are becoming more and more irrelevant. Our office designs, and our culture, need to catch up to the new way we actually work.

What you will find in an activity-based workplace is a variety of work points where, on any given day, any employee can choose to work on a range of activities that best suit their current task and personal work style.

You will find a variety of different work spaces laid out in small neighborhoods. Open collaboration areas of various sizes and shapes are set away from individual work areas. Personal storage, file storage, visual privacy, noise levels and maximized lighting are all taken into consideration when laying out the various spaces and work points.

The activity-based workplace sees space as a tool, not unlike technology. By providing a wider variety of options, we gain greater flexibility, we become more productive, and we reinforce trust and employee empowerment.

Success is not about the number of staff sitting at their desk anymore; it’s about finding the best way to integrate flexible workplaces, enabling technology, and the right mindsets to support it.

Are you ready for the future? Let’s do it!

Join the conversation #GCWorkplace

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