Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Activity Based Workplace - A Tuesday Conversation

Being Tuesday, it is Conversation Day

This morning I shared coffee/tea with a charming and talented Change Management Professional. We have known each other for about 4 years and it is reasonable to say she has helped me transition from a Change Manager Sceptic to that of Advocate.

Our conversation was broad ranging including the project she is currently engaged with.

She is consulting to a Major Corporation to assist their change to an Activity Based Workplace.

The Corporation in question is rolling out a new workplace concept to all departments and divisions across more than 20 locations spanning 4 continents.

In short, they want more people working from home, more often.

I can see significant benefits in this strategy.

From an employee perspective, greater flexibility allows ease of parental sharing and both parents being able to pursue chosen careers.

Many working Mothers talk of the guilt they harbour on returning to work, and this too could be minimalised. (it has always interested me that Fathers don’t harness the same guilt).

Corporately, the volume of office space needed in each location lessons, reducing capital and ongoing costs.

There are also numerous benefits for the community. For example, imagine the positive impact on transport infrastructure if there were 1000 people taken off the roads, trains and buses each day.

There may also be an economic transplantation. Arguably, 1000 cups of coffee would be made in the suburbs instead of the CBD.

I have mentioned only a few of the very many benefits of such a work place. 

I may be old fashioned, too much of a traditionalist even, because I also wonder about the social impacts of Activity Based Workplaces where more staff are working from home. I also wonder at the impacts, positively and negatively on mental health.

Traditional workplaces require the development and ongoing practice of social skills. They teach and hone negotiation skills, giving and taking and collaboration. They also require a certain level of face to face conflict resolution.

And then there is the pure social interaction, the water cooler conversation. There is also the support provided for a colleague enduring personal challenges.

There are also people who are naturally shy and/or introverted. They benefit greatly from the necessity a workplace has for the development of relationships and the practice of conversation.

I am not sure removing this daily interaction is a good thing.

It is important to add that encouraging staff to work remotely is only one facet of the Activity Based Workplace Concept. There are several other key components that I have not addressed.

The organisation in question is doing a very good job in preparing staff for the changes they are implementing and have executed what appears to be a very good connectivity strategy via common hardware and having all offices throughout the world connected to a single platform. 

In technology and operational terms, it actually works and works well.

My question or concern is, as workplaces provide greater access to connectivity, are staff in reality becoming less authentically connected?

Time will tell.

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