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Activity Based Working: Me and We Spaces and the Benefits of Choice
Tags: workplace strategy, design
When Australia’s Bankwest switched to an Activity Based Working (ABW) workplace, they immediately saw increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Two-thirds of employees felt more effective in their jobs after the transition and a full 98% said they would not go back to the old way of working.
Why do activity based workplaces consistently deliver success stories? Perhaps the most telling statistic from the Bankwest case study is this one: 91% of employees enjoy the freedom to choose their daily work setting based on the task or activity they’re trying to complete at the time.
The tension between “Me Spaces” that support privacy and “We Spaces” that support collaboration is a hot topic in workplace discussions. Every worker has something they love and hate about each, but neither type of workspace can effectively support the diverse roles and output requirements of today’s office workers on its own.
Which brings us to the most important question: Why not have both?
The Balance between “Me” and “We”
The average office employee’s work is changing from repetitive and task based activities to more complex roles that require both focused work and collaboration. Organizations are finding that no single workspace can support their employees with the variety of activities they engage in throughout the day. And moreover, as a worker’s role in an organization becomes more complex, they require a greater number of social connections to complete their work and a wider variety of spaces to support these connections.
We Spaces sustain a more stimulating and dynamic environment that makes sharing ideas and collaboration a seamless experience. Employees can instantly start conversations and request feedback from their coworkers. But while this environment makes working together on projects easier, when workers need to dig in and focus this lack of privacy inhibits productivity. Each distraction costs about 15 minutes of focused work, and distractions and falling behind at work creates a significant amount of stress. A study by Florida State University showed that employees lacking privacy were 40% more likely to be overwhelmed with work and had 20% higher anxiety levels.
The easier access to and availability of Me Spaces addresses the issues that come up with We Spaces. Privacy allows workers to focus, uninterrupted, on cognitive tasks, but an overabundance of Me Space can create a sense of isolation. When workers only have access to Me Spaces, they are not sharing ideas across departments or building personal relationships with their coworkers.
Activity Based Working offers balance between Me and We Spaces by untethering employees from a single work station or private office and giving them the freedom to move throughout the day.
The Power of Choice
There is a direct correlation between a worker’s mobility and their productivity and pride in their work, according to a study by Leesman. The data shows that stationary workers are the least productive and take the least pride in their work, but as their workplace choices and mobility rise so does their performance and pride.
The benefits of giving employees choice over their workspace goes beyond putting them in a setting that best supports their work. This choice empowers workers and makes their work more meaningful, and when employees feel empowered they take more ownership over their work and their organization and their performance increases.
Activity Based Working is the Future of Work
As the nature of work continues to shift towards more dynamic and collaborative projects, we’re seeing choice of workspace and a balance between We and Me Spaces have a continually larger impact on our credit union partners. They are building workplaces that support the highest levels of innovation and performance to attract and support the best and brightest workers.
To learn more about how the future of work is changing, read our latest whitepaper A Study of Credit Union Workplaces and the Future of Work . We dive into activity based working and other relevant topics with analysis of data collected from over 1,200 credit union employees.
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