A partner at workplace designer and consultant Geyer, Laurie Aznavoorian , says the interest in activity-based working is understandable, as companies that adopt the concept are able to reduce their real estate requirements by up to 30 per cent and achieve even greater savings in energy and paper costs.
However, she is concerned that companies will be encouraged to pursue activity-based working on the basis of cost savings alone and that the removal of permanent desk space will be an easy route to such savings.
She says it is true that some companies are able to successfully adopt “free address” workplaces in which no worker is provided with dedicated workspaces.
But a more realistic scenario is that companies need to implement a “hybrid” of free space and traditional work environments – as companies such as American Express, Citigroup and Rio Tinto have done.
Aznavoorian suspects some companies that claim to have a no-permanent- desk policy are either exaggerating, or in their zeal, have unnecessarily insisted that everyone give up their desks – only to find that some people in “anchor” positions, such as administrators, human resources staff and
personal assistants eventually get their desks back.
“Every organisation is comprised of people who play different roles and require unique approaches to how their job and personal working preferences should be supported,” she says. “I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to have to move every day.”
An important factor in the reinvention of the workplace is the growing presence of Generation Y in that workplace and their impact on work cultures. Social researcher Mark McCrindle says Gen Ys (born between 1980 and 1994) constitute 21 per cent of the workforce and the proportion will peak at 42 per cent next decade.
Gen Zs will constitute 12 per cent of the workforce by 2020.