15 September 2021
Curated by: Redazione IVM

Journey to the centre of the office: introducing Activity-based working

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We have already stressed repeatedly that sharing is a key factor in the present-day office and for that of the future, and that it is pivotal in encouraging a consolidated “corporate community”.

We have already approached this theme in our blog, from various points of view (for example, in “Twelve new concepts for redesigning the office”), provoking considerable interest. For this reason, in response to your suggestions, we have decided to dedicate it specific attention.

So let’s look at the “Plaza” and how it can be considered as a concept representing the “heart of the office”.

It is a highly functional, fluid and dynamic space, which, when necessary, can become an area dedicated to meetings, or a welcome room for clients and suppliers.

It is a place of connection and interchange, a true social condenser, bringing together not just figures from outside the company environment, but also and more specifically, from the internal team. Sharing, networking, serendipity, all the elements that constitute the “Plaza” play a role in encouraging relations – including casual contacts – with colleagues, and in increasing the community spirit and the sense of belonging to the company.


A workspace suitable for all requirements


The thing that makes a space such as this absolutely unique is the variety of ways in which it can be used.

However, this flexibility is an aspect that deserves greater attention in the design phase. Like the pieces of a mosaic that have to be selected in order to create an overall design, in the same way the elements comprising the “Plaza” have to be considered in terms of harmony, so that they are all coordinated.

This location is not an “activity storehouse”: each single component of the furnishing design should not be in contrast with the various modes of using the space.

Otherwise, the concept of “randomness” that hallmarks the area would rapidly become “chaos”, generating the opposite effect to that intended.

For this reason, it is essential to develop an interior layout that puts the design component into relation with functional and human aspects.

The size of the plaza can vary in proportion to the space available, and it can be enhanced by numerous furnishing elements: large islands for sharing break times, lounge areas for relaxation, all solutions that promote opportunities for sharing ideas.


Activity-based working


The “Plaza’s” design utilises features of the “Activity-based working” concept, which combines technology, processes and design to create multi-functional, dynamic workspaces.

Though this concept represents an innovative approach, it has deep roots, running back to 1983, the year in which American architect Robert Luchetti referred to “activity settings” for the first time. This definition helped launch the creation of work spaces designed to host a variety of corporate activities, such as the plaza.

ABW (Activity-based working) is therefore a mode of operation that gives central importance to employees, who are free to choose to work in different settings without changing the nature of the activities that they are performing.

This is a central tenet in the construction of a true corporate experience.

However, for ABW to exist in a company, four elements have to be present: design, sensorial experience, behavioural reinforcement and iterative learning. Let’s see how they take shape in the “Plaza”.

Design: every furnishing component has to match the different ways in which the space is used: in whatever mode the plaza is utilised, whether as a relaxation area or as a meeting room, the design elements within it have to coexist to perfection.

Sensorial experience: an ABW area should also inspire a sensorial experience for staff that corresponds to the design according to which it was planned. In other words, all employees should be capable of easily understanding how each space in the plaza can be used in different ways, according to the various sensorial elements that they perceive within that area, such as sounds, fragrance, music etc.

Behavioural reinforcement: multi-purpose usage does not mean doing whatever you like, whenever you like. Every part of the office has characteristics and rules that have to be followed, and this is equally true for the plaza, which was designed to host many different activities.

For this reason, it is fundamental to link sensorial input with clear instructions on the functions and behaviour to be followed in every part of the plaza.

Iterative learning: of course, an activity-based working approach can be successful only to the degree to which the entire organisation adopts a radical change in mentality, surpassing what has become an obsolete vision of the classical office.

By way of conclusion, in the future of work, offices will increasingly have to be treated as true “living organisms” that adapt to employees’ needs, and not vice-versa.

For this reason, for a company it can be strategic to develop work spaces, such as the “Plaza”, which adopt the activity-based working approach, in order to privilege dynamic and flexible operations in the office.

All this has to be part of a more extensive plan that aims at increasing employees’ wellness at work, improving efficiency and productivity at the workplace.

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