The legal industry is the sector least likely to implement an activity-based workplace (ABW), according to the Colliers International 2012 Office Tenant Survey: Alternative Workspace Strategies – The Next Evolution.
Doug Henry, Colliers International head of corporate solutions, says common sense dictates that ABW will suit some businesses more than others.
Information and communication technology (ICT) was the industry most likely to have already, or plan to, implement ABW.
According to Colliers, this is consistent with the sector’s early adoption of mobility technologies and relatively mature approach towards staff working from home.
Henry says the top reason given by Australian tenants considering adopting ABW was flexibility.
“The perception of ABW is that it can allow businesses greater flexibility, while also helping to increase efficiency and reduce real estate costs,” Henry says.
David McEwen, Colliers International director of consulting - project services, says while there are clear corporate benefits to ABW, the impact on individuals within the workplace needs further investigation.
“Research is finding that ABW arrangements can create feelings of cognitive and social stress amongst staff - simply the morning challenge of finding somewhere to sit and the prospect of sitting next to colleagues with whom you’re not as familiar as those in your immediate team can lead to heightened levels of anxiety,” McEwan says.
“What we’re seeing in the field is that people tend to gravitate to the same work point they sat in the previous day and if it’s already taken they’ll try to sit nearby. Seats that offer a level of privacy, such as those facing away from a window or away from circulation zones, are coveted.”
“There is also a fear expressed by some staff that out of sight is out of mind, and that by sitting in view of their manager it will enhance the manager’s perception of their performance. Some managers also tend to stake territorial claim, which sometimes means that other groups are denied access to shared resources.”
“What we are aiming to establish is whether unassigned seating has real, tangible benefits beyond the real estate cost savings that are well documented, such as whether it assists in breaking down hierarchical and functional boundaries to improve collaboration.”