Flexible and activity-based working are transforming the way we do business – from the ways in which leaders inspire and manage their teams to how organisations are run and people collaborate.
Redefining the work environment
Activity-based working extends the ‘hot-desking’ concept by allowing you to match your work environment with the task at hand. For instance, if you need to focus on a complex problem, you can retreat to a workspace with no noise or distractions. If you want to brainstorm with fellow team members, you can organise an impromptu meeting in a relaxed, informal space.
Mobile devices, the cloud, instant messaging and wireless connectivity have made this much easier by allowing workers to set up a virtual office in almost any location. Many organisations, from SMEs to large companies, have already embraced flexible workplace practices, with the following benefits:
- Improved staff collaboration, productivity and efficiency.
- Breaking down of silos.
- Increased efficiency and reduced real estate costs.
- An improved work environment and higher job satisfaction, making the business an employer of choice.
The ‘no managers’ business
Flexible, activity-based working can certainly help a business become more streamlined and efficient. It can also reduce the need for managers, since it provides individual workers with the tools they need to better connect, collaborate, share resources and make important decisions. Some companies have already successfully adopted a ‘no managers’ approach.
One example is gaming software company Valve, where employees are simply categorised as either individual or group contributors. Another is online clothing shop Zappos, where decision-making power is distributed within self-governing ‘circles’.
Finding the right balance
Is an activity-based working approach right for your company? It goes without saying that every company is unique, and that there can be no one-size-fits-all solution. A useful tactic might be to simply observe the work practices of your colleagues, and then decide which type of work environment they would flourish in.
For instance, you could start by offering activity-based working options to your most mobile employees, and encourage them to lead others by example. At the other end of the scale, you could give your least mobile, most focused employees the option to continue working at a single location.
For the foreseeable future, the workplace is likely to continue as a physical place where people gather to collaborate, build a culture and access the resources they need to be successful. However, with much of the world having already shifted to an always-on, business-anywhere model, it’s also likely that most companies will eventually need to embrace these new ways of working.
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Matt Meakins is an Adelaide-based freelance writer, blogger and former software engineer with a keen interest in emerging technologies and how they affect the way we do business. He studied at the University of SA and the Adelaide College of the Arts, and has produced and edited content for a wide range of companies, including lean startups, high-tech innovators and digital marketing agencies.