- BRW Lists
Published 14 March 2013 00:01, Updated 04 June 2013 08:02
Squirrelling is one way to keep some of your personal stuff in the office. Photo: Digital Zoo
Bosses everywhere are trying to take away people’s desks – and employees are trying everything to avoid, ignore and fight the change.
Activity-based working is the hot trend in workplace design because it can save millions of dollars in real estate costs and – when done properly – improve productivity.
But people are creatures of habit. We like to have a place to call our own, even if it is a dusty, overflowing workstation in the middle of a grey fluorescent-lit floor.
Think of this: next time you visit the office bathroom, note the cubicle and sink you use. Chances are they are always the same ones.
So what happens when you tell people they no longer have a desk to call their own and they have a small locker to store their detritus? Some people accept the inevitable and adjust, others put up a struggle . . . and then there are those who become devious.
A former Macquarie Bank executive, who declines to be named, says she has had to readjust to working at a traditional office (with doors that close) at another investment bank. Despite the teething problems described, she says she prefers the deskless way of working, especially when it comes to the efficiency of using laptops in meetings, rather than paper, for taking notes and handing them out.
At Macquarie, she also had more flexibility to work from home when she needed to concentrate or had difficulty with childcare. “I would go back to that environment,” she says.
Consultant Rosemary Kirkby, who was until recently the head of change and sustainability at GPT, says some of the biggest resisters become the greatest advocates for activity-based working.
“I actively look for those people and welcome them. I worry about the quiet ones . . . but I don’t get much resistance as such,” she says.
The change programs that get the most push back are those where the employees have not been part of the planning and implementation process.
In fact, the employee who posted his papers to himself became one such advocate. After a couple of weeks in the new environment, Kirkby overheard him telling visitors that he was amazed he had actually changed his mind.
“He turned into one of our biggest champions,” says Kirkby, principal of Rosemary Kirkby & Associates and one of Australia’s best-known experts on ABW. “In my experience, [people like him] are very important. They come along and get involved and, initially, they may not like it, but they stay involved. If something is wrong, they will say how it should be adjusted.” Not that activity-based working doesn’t have its challenges, even for Kirkby, who lost her shoes when she went to work on another floor and forgot where she left them.