Considerations for Software Enabled “Activity Based Working”
By Vanessa Sulikowski Collaboration Technical Architect APJC CISCO on Saturday, November 30th, 2013
Features in QESP NewsletterVolume 25 , Issue 3 - ISSN 1325-2070
When considering workplace transformation and a move toward flexible and activity based working, unfortunately, it is not as simple as just buying or updating technology or installing software.
Many factors come into play, yes technology is key, to enable different worker types, the task workers, knowledge workers, mobile workers and hybrid users, to all complete their required activities at any time of day or location. Technology can provide them with the means to do this, by allowing them to easily move to more appropriate accommodation as the need arises, such as an ergonomic task focused desk, a collaboration team table, a video privacy room or a multi-purpose video enabled collaboration room. What also has to be considered for the highest chance of success is the human, cultural and policy factors that exist in an organisation. In many cases organisational policy and culture may need to bend or change. The human element is critical, considerations such as ease of use, the level of comfort, user acceptance and the change management all must be paramount in the usage and adoption process planning.
Before we move on, what is “Activity Based Working”? Activity based working can be described as a way of providing purposeful spaces for a particular activity, such as task-oriented hot desks, collaboration spaces, audio and video privacy rooms, team benches or tables, and/or multipurpose and multimedia meeting rooms to provide employees with an effective place to work.
An “Activity Based Working” project needs to involve many organisational groups beyond IT, and may not even start as a technology discussion., Consensus and cooperation is needed with Human Resources, Facilities Management and Workplace Resources, Learning and Development, Marketing and of course needs senior management and executive sponsorship.
When starting a project like workplace transformation it needs to be considered from the top down involving cooperation at all levels of the organisation. If the employees are to change to a more dynamic working arrangement then senior leadership needs to be seen to change as well. Especially, since it is management that will reap the benefits of potential gains in productivity and real estate reduction costs.
What is also imperative is that the employees are consulted and involved in the workplace transformation planning process. The most successful activity based working projects involve consultation with representatives from all parts of the organisation who will be impacted and multiple “proof of concept” or trials to gather reactions, feedback and acceptance levels. While this is ongoing, there may also need to be corresponding changes in workplace practice. If an activity based working environment means that employees can have more flexible work hours from any location then policy may need to change.
There are many different types of workspaces; a task focused desk could be a physical space designed for manual data entry work, document and content preparation or email driven correspondence. This desk may have a large screen monitor, a docking station or port replicator for a laptop or tablet and may have an associated phone. This is a place you could sit for many hours and complete tasks that need to be done, have open calls that you need to make and take and that are not of a sensitive nature. When you do need to conduct calls that require more privacy, then space needs to be available to allow for sensitive audio and video calls and a user needs to be able to seamlessly transition to an audio or video privacy room as they require. Or if privacy is not the goal but one of multiparty collaboration, then there is a need to move easily to a space that will allow one to one to become one to many, including voice, video and content sharing.
What is needed to achieve this is software that provides the integration of the collaboration and communications systems and the physical workspaces. Using mechanisms that allow the user to see the status and then immediately check in and out of a different type of workspace. Software, like the Cisco Connected Spaces, that permits a user to instantly see on a floor plan map what types of physical spaces are available, what technology the space can provide and where it is located. The user needs to be able to interact with the system via multiple methods such as using a mobile app, a web based app, a touch screen panel, a QR code or even logging in on the phone on the desk; the status of the space, whether booked or available will be clearly visible. When a user “checks in” to a space, that space becomes their space; the phone or video endpoint if available will become there phone number with their individual settings and with their dialling preferences; a meeting room can be automatically set to their lighting and air conditioning preferences.
What can further enrich this experience is the concept of neighbourhoods, where an individual can search for their team or particular colleagues and choose a location within the vicinity of those they need or choose to work with. Once the user has chosen a location, a wayfinding function will guide the user to the exact spot on the relevant floor they have chosen. This new work model will give employees the freedom from traditional worker bee style cubicles to flexible work desks and community areas like chill out zones, e-cafes and comfy corners to enable colleague interaction.
Connected Space systems can also provide reporting metrics that will enable workplace resources teams, real estate management teams and leadership to get an accurate view of how floor accommodation is being utilised, what groups frequent which areas and which areas such as collaboration rooms are most heavily used. A Connected Meeting application can also provide integration into room booking systems, so not only is a video enabled room reserved for a meeting through calendaring software but the meeting originator will need to check in to the room within 15 minutes of the start time to ensure the room booking is not released. With traditional calendar booking systems, rooms are booked and often not used.
The organisation can then use this reporting and analytical information for future corporate office floor real estate planning. For example, do they need more task oriented spaces, or more privacy rooms, or more open collaborative spaces? They have empirical data to more accurately make these decisions.
While the software will enable the seamless use of and integration with collaboration and communication systems, calendaring and booking systems, and the physical space, what is still critical is the human condition. Most people dislike change. Change management is imperative and this is best achieved through considerable consultation, trialling, feedback, incentives and transparency. Users will adopt and embrace the flexibility when they have been part of the planning and trialling and have had extensive training on how to use the software technology.
Activity Based Working is coming to an office near you, are you ready and willing to be included in the process?
Vanessa Sulikowski – Collaboration Technical Architect – APJC CISCO
Vanessa has been working in the Networking and IT&T industry for over 20 years, she joined Cisco Systems in late 2000 as a Systems Engineer (SE). For over a decade Vanessa has specialised in designing and implementing Unified Communications and Collaboration and considered a trusted advisor by the top customers across ANZ. She is currently the Collaboration Lead Architect for the Asia-Pacific Region.
Vanessa has presented on Collaboration and Networking at many IT&T events and conferences including over 20 Cisco Live – Networkers internationally including in Australia, USA, Europe, Korea, and the Middle East and has been recognised as a Distinguished Speaker. She has also presented at over 30 industry and external events such as Microsoft TechEd, Wainhouse Summit, QuestNet and Citrix Technology Showcase. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of information Science Honours degree from the University of Newcastle and has achieved Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) Voice. She has a special interest and passion for flexible and activity based working.