At its most fundamental level, the Modern Workspace is a technology blueprint that enables mobility and collaboration throughout an organisation. But while digital technology is an essential enabler of the modern workspace, the physical layout of the office environment is just as important in the execution of this flexible working model.
The desk days are over
Activity-based working, or ABW, is a component of the modern workspace that centres on the workplace itself. It’s based on the notion that throughout the day, employees have a number of different activities to complete – some require high levels of concentration and others high levels of collaboration.
To support these different activities, a workplace needs to have a variety of spaces so employees can choose how and where they want to work – something that the traditional, fixed workstation model doesn’t allow. Depending on the types of activities carried out in an organisation, this could be a combination of open floor plans, communal areas, and private hubs where employees can go to concentrate on solo work.
A local council’s example
Victoria’s Cardinia Shire Council was one organisation that was desperately in need of a makeover – both digital and physical. Not unusual for a local government body, Cardinia was heavily reliant on slow, manual processes. These were not only putting a financial strain on the organisation, with printing costs well into the six figures, but they were driving down productivity and efficiency, causing delays in decision-making and in getting correspondence out to constituents.
Making matters worse, the organisation operated in silos, with staff spread across six different locations. There was little interdepartmental communication which only delayed processes even more.
Cardinia saw an upcoming move to a new premises as an opportunity to make some big changes, and Thomas Duryea Logicalis worked with the council to deliver two solutions:
1. Digital transformation
The first step was a process transformation, beginning with the digitalisation of documents and files, which were migrated from network drives to a new corporate records management system. This coincided with the rollout of lightweight laptops that mobilised staff and replaced the need for hard copy documents and agendas in meetings, greatly reducing printing costs.
A key part of this process transformation was building a digital culture around the implementation of technology to ensure employees embraced the new behaviours and ways of working. Staff were coached and supported throughout the digitalisation process and had ample time to adapt to the changes prior to the office move.
This process transformation alone resulted in a 75% reduction in paper use, creating $68,000 in savings on printing costs in one year (not to mention savings in storage space at the new headquarters).
2. Activity-based working
Moving to a new office gave Cardinia the opportunity to start from scratch. The floor space was specifically designed to accommodate ABW practices, featuring a centralised hub with a variety of predetermined activity areas that allow employees to conduct specific tasks. Rather than having their own allocated workstations, Cardinia employees are assigned a locker so they can pick up their belongings and choose a setting that suits their type of work activity.
But while ABW is concerned with the physical space, it’s only as good as the technology that supports it. A strong IT core removes the limitations of an office setup and enables employees to be mobile and connect in real time – whether in the office or offsite. In Cardinia’s case, the key enabling technologies were Wi-Fi, video conferencing, and new endpoint devices.
Clearly, employees have taken a liking to the new flexible arrangement, with staff retention rates improving significantly. In just one year, staff turnover has almost halved, dropping from 13% to 7%.
Where digital meets physical
Digital transformation is now extending to the physical space. As more companies enable mobility and flexible working becomes a common practice, we are approaching the next stage of workplace evolution: office transformation.
The activity-based working model is at the heart of the Modern Workspace. If organisations want their staff to enjoy coming to the office ¬– and to be productive when they get there –they need to cater to the various styles of working and, most of all, offer choice.
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