While offices in the UK have been catching up, places likes Australia have long been promoting more agile working methods, including the Activity Based Working (ABW) model as a means to improve staff productivity and effectiveness.
The concept of ABW is about creating workspaces designed to facilitate individual tasks at work – for example collaborative work or individual working – to encourage staff to move to locations within the office that best suit the specific task at hand, rather than rely on a single desk all day long. An example of the concept in practice is the Commonwealth Bank building at Darling Quarter in Sydney, where over 6,000 people moved from having their own desks to a more shared, open-plan environment.
Lendlease partnered with the bank over a number of years in delivering this new approach to help improve engagement among employees, increase performance and reduce absenteeism. In fact, by embracing a design based on ABW, the bank halved its paper consumption, decreased CO2 use by 55 per cent and reduced property overheads.
Naturally a working environment that encourages less time spent at desks, reduces the number in use – and fewer desks requires less offices space. Perhaps more importantly, 78 per cent of employees said they felt inspired by their working environment and 90 per cent said they’d never go back to the old way of working.
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ABW is only one of many workplace strategies that can help deliver rich outcomes and maximise performance. For example workplaces that adopt team based, agile or mobile working can be just as effective. It’s therefore important to apply and tailor workplace design to meet the needs of an individual business, and, crucially, the staff that work there. After all, no two businesses are identical and nor should their working environment be.
The success and learnings from across the globe, are being implemented into the design of International Quarter London, a new £2.4bn commercial development in Stratford which set to become the capital’s newest office district. But the development is different to established commercial areas in London, placing health and wellbeing at the heart of the design.
Just as workplace design can help energise and increase efficiency, it can also improve staff wellbeing – which has a natural correlation to performance. For example, to encourage mobility at International Quarter London, the building designs include a highly visible staircase staff will have to walk past to get to the lifts. There will be open atriums to create a sense of space and to allow movement between floors. Workplaces will be supplied with 100 per cent fresh air to help keep staff alert and engaged.
The appetite for these features among workers was verified by recent research carried out in conjunction with YouGov which found one in three workers in London said their main workplace makes them feel unhealthy, just two fifths felt they get enough fresh air at work and only half get enough natural light. With increasing competition for talent and a more mobile workforce, creating the right workplace is becoming increasingly important to recruit and retain staff.
The workplace is a powerful tool that can energise, inspire and engage staff and deliver real business value – the impacts cannot be underestimated for improving the bottom line.
Kevin Chapman Is head of offices at Lendlease.
There’s no doubt that co-working is hugely on the rise across the globe, particularly in cities like London, with a high population of startups and creative young companies. But if you’re imagining rows of identikit desks and bland carpets, think again.