Projects aren’t forever. So why are workspaces?
Consider a typical project. How many disciplines from within the company are involved? Engineering provides the infrastructure, IT does the development, quality assurance makes sure it’s bulletproof, marketing manages the launch, then there’s distribution, sales, logistics … the list goes on. And in a traditional enterprise environment, each of those contributors will be working from their own organization, meeting periodically for updates and progress reports.
“We need to work across boundaries that were traditionally more separate,” says Peter Gahan, director of the Center for Workplace Leadership and professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia. According to Gahan, the Center’s goal is to provide the kind of management training that accelerates innovative and productive practices for Australia’s workforce.
“An important part of that concept is recognizing the way technology is transforming the way we can work,” says Gahan, adding that this is particularly true of virtual environments.
An evolving workplace
Gahan also suggests that building workspaces around the activity that’s taking place, rather than around a corporate hierarchy, makes much more efficient use of valuable real estate. And, he’s quick to point out, the University of Melbourne is itself an excellent example of how the workplace can evolve.
“If you look at a standard university workplace setting, it has barely changed in the last 500 years,” he says.
Rather than traditional arrangements of buildings and corridors and offices, Gahan says the University of Melbourne has moved to open-concept, flexible, activity-based, technologically-driven environments, which have become a showcase for the center’s industry clients. “They often find it hard to imagine what these forms of innovative workspaces might look like,” says Gahan.
And thanks to technologies like videoconferencing, IP telephony, and wireless connectivity, it’s now easier than ever to transform open-concept workspaces to suit various styles of work, from colocation to isolation. Telework becomes more practical, team-based collaboration becomes easier, and the use of space is maximized.
“If you were to undertake an audit of workspaces at any particular point in time, you would see that large swathes of space are not utilized or are underutilized in the course of the day,” Gahan says, adding that activity-based working, with the right design and technological tools, can ensure all spaces are allocated more efficiently.
One company Gahan works with is a workplace blank slate, with open concept offices and all its furniture on wheels.
“As needs change, the space is reconfigured and the technology moves with the employees,” he says. “Wireless and cloud-based technologies are all central to enabling that type of work design.”
The results include:
- Better productivity and employee performance
- Easier collaboration
- More efficient use of expensive real estate
All of which make the ROI case for an activity-based workspace.