Activity based working – improving on the city

Image Credit: Emdot, Flickr

It’s a trend that’s sweeping the Sydney CBD. Activity Based working is a concept of different types of spaces, depending on what work you are doing. There are quiet spaces, project desks, meeting rooms with fabulous IT setups, and cafe style seating around the kitchen space. The trick is that the workers don’t have a desk of their own. Instead they have a choice of  spaces; quiet spaces, project spaces, meeting rooms, and ordinary desks, depending on what work they are doing.

The Dutch company, Veldhoen & Co is the internationally leading proponent and has already introduced it to the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Bank. And now I’m part of a pilot at KPMG.

Many knowledge workers hate open plan; it does tend to be noisier than working in your own office. But I think there is an analogy with cities; Ed Glaeser is the leading economist lauding the city as the engine of productivity of the world. Glaeser cites the example of Silicon Valley:

“The computer industry, more than any other sector, is the place where one might expect remote communication to replace person-to-person meetings; computer companies have the best teleconferencing tools, the best Internet applications, the best means of connecting far-flung collaborators. Yet despite their ability to work at long distances, this industry has become the most famous example of the benefits of geographic concentration.”

Office space which helps workers create unexpected connections acts in a similar way. Anything which increases the chance of collaboration between expected, and especially, unexpected colleagues is likely to improve the overall productivity of a firm.

While many city people have a dream of retiring to a little place in the country; they live and work in a city. That’s where the money is, because that is where they are at their most productive.

Activity based working tries to give you the best of both worlds; retreats into peace and quiet for when you really need them, and the chance to collaborate in unexpected ways most of the time.

I’m feeling much more productive than I did two weeks ago.