The popularity of Activity Based Working is growing fast. The whole concept is based on a couple of ideas and innovations.
No technical need for a personal workspace anymore
First, we are no longer technically bounded to a fixed work desk. More and more our company information and personal files are stored in the cloud or on personal mobile devices like laptops and smartphones. And even with fixed equipment, we have desktop virtualization to decouple the physical desktop computer from people’s personal data and settings.
So, since in the ‘cloud era’ it is no longer necessary for every employee to work from the office all the time and there are fewer people who occupy their individual workspaces full-time. In traditional settings the result would be that a significant percentage of the office space would remain empty every day. Sharing of desk space between people is the only logical conclusion.
Different workspaces for different tasks
Second, we have learned that a typical knowledge worker is doing a lot of different things today, each activity requires a different type of workspace. Discussing a topic with a colleague, meeting with the team or working on a complex design document, are all different tasks with different workspace requirements.
The result is that modern offices are flexible by design. They provide different configurations for different tasks; they provide the technology to access your personal information from any desk, and they can be reconfigured if there are significant changes in the workload.
Of course, this whole concept comes with some challenges. The flexibility and openness also introduced new questions. Let’s have a look at them.
ICT security for Activity Based Working
The first issue in Activity Based Working is security. Activity Based Working always means that people are flexible in the ICT equipment they could use. Either they carry devices with them, or they log into different devices. Specifically the use of own devices – Bring Your Own Device or BYOD – is a big concern for security specialists. Also the use of equipment which is associated with a specific desk brings some concerns. But here, the typical security measures with accounts and passwords are in place. Nothing special.
VoIP Telephony security for Activity Based Working
In case there are also fixed desktop telephones installed on every desk, there may be a bigger challenge. To protect telecommunication equipment against unauthorized access, and at the same time to let employees use their personal extension numbers and settings, a mechanism called Extension Mobility is used. Where login procedures for computers are rather straightforward, logging into a desktop telephone is often cumbersome. The keypad is very limited and logging in is not easy when you have to enter special characters. So, in a flexible office environment where the computer infrastructure works without problems, telephones are often a confusing topic. People log in once but never log out again, leaving their personal telephone profile open. Or they simply forget to log in and become untraceable for colleagues and customers.
For this particular problem there is already a solution which RSconnect developed ten years ago. It happens to be the first software solution to deal with this problem. Using the Active Login Manager (ALM) Client, there is no need to log into the telephone anymore. As soon as someone logs into his computer, his computer will also log into his telephone as well. As simple as that. The solution is already in use by numerous companies and organizations worldwide.
Activity Based Working metrics and reporting
The interesting thing is that the ALM software now also offers another very useful function for Activity Based Working. This has to do with the challenge which office managers and facility managers have to organize their flexible office environments. How do you measure the actual utilization of workspaces, how do you measure which desks are very popular and ‘always sold out’, how do you determine the impact of your configuration on the productivity of your people and your employee’s satisfaction?
One source to receive information from is, of course, the actual output of your people. However, it may be quite complicated to assess the impact of the working environment on the results of one’s work. A more direct measurement is to ask people for their actual experiences. Which working space fits which type of work? A creative way of doing this is a mobile app which now and then prompts the user to enter which task he or she is performing at that moment and at which desk or location.
A more basic but very straightforward method however, is to report on the actual usage data from the infrastructure. It may be very informative to see which seats are occupied for how long and by which type of employee. Very reliable data is available from the ICT and telecommunications infrastructure. At RSconnect, we therefore added monitoring capabilities to our ALM PRO+ software. Many customers nowadays use the extended reporting capabilities of our ALM PRO+ solution to monitor how their employees use their flexible workspaces, allowing them to optimize their office configurations.