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Efficient use of square meters: designing activity-based workspaces

The way we work together has been constantly changing over the years.

We began by assigning each employee a fixed workspace. In the time that followed, we worked in spacious open-office environments — but that trend is also fading. Now, different spaces in a building are designed to match the type of activity that we want to perform.

In other words: activity-based workspaces.

Research by Leesman shows that activity-based working has a positive effect on collaboration and productivity. 

This blog will explore considerations required to choose the right activity-based workspaces for your office.

Why do we actually come to the office? 

First, let’s discuss why we come in to work at all.

Many of us can work independent of location, but human contact remains a vital element in the creating and maintaining of relationships. And let's face it: People are social creatures. We want to be part of the herd, to be in the loop, to hear the latest gossip spoken at the coffee machine.

In other words, the office has gained more of a social role; people come to meet people.   

Does that mean we should put coffee corners and large meeting rooms with video conferencing systems everywhere?

Of course not. While a single videoconference call may be the motivator for an employee to come to the office, that employee still needs the right tools for the remainder of their day.

A CFO who has an important share in the quarterly results presentation might want to retreat temporarily to a room to concentrate, to review the figures before explaining them in the call. And not only that, but they might also prefer to discuss them in a meeting room with a few internal stakeholders before presenting them to a larger audience.

It is, therefore, important to find the right balance between the type of spaces in an organization—and it must be based on workflow and the activities that employees perform, whether that is concentrating, collaborating, or co-creating.                  

Activity Based Workspaces E-book Download

What does that mean for the spatial design?

Knowing whether these spaces do (and continue to) meet the needs of the workers is essential. When a space is in constant use, we could claim that it is a popular space and a great tool for employees. But is that so because the space provides a suitable environment for the task the employee wants to perform?

Take, for example, an employee who has occupied a small meeting room the entire day so he can finish a report undisturbed. As a result, four sales reps are forced to use the large meeting room—which the HR manager needed for their department meeting. So, the HR department meets in the boardroom that the board had forgotten to book for the day.

See where this is going?

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It might seem harmless, but it is not. Facility managers who want to make optimal use of every square meter must not only measure if spaces are used and how much, but also determine the reason why. An optimal occupancy rate says little about whether a space is used effectively.

By measuring how—or if—the equipment in a room is being used, we get a more holistic and complete idea of which kind of spaces we need. If a space that is fully equipped for video conferencing is in use 90% of the time, but video meetings only make up 20% of that time, the facility manager should start asking questions! That is how we determine what kind of activity-based workspaces we need.

Ask the right questions. Are people using the videoconferencing solutions? Why not? Is the technology not working optimally, or do they not know how to operate it? Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.

By asking the right questions and combining it with modern monitoring tools to provide the data, we remove guesswork from the equation and find out what is really happening in our office.

And that’s when we get to create optimal activity-based workspaces.

Collaboration, Digital Transformation, Activity Based Workspaces

Thomas McKenna

About Thomas McKenna

Thomas McKenna is UK Marketing Manager at Kinly

Read more posts by Thomas McKenna