A month ago, I was asked to PwC Canberra’s new office opening. It sounded boring but I agreed to go because it meant getting out of dinner, bathing, homework and reading duties with my three children.
What unfolded was a very interesting evening discovering what a modern workplace looks like and how it functions. The office provides 200 staff with a personal locker, laptop, and a range of individual and team workspaces – but no personal desk. Every workspace has a computer, docking station for the laptop, and phone. There is an online filing system so there is no paper lying around.
The workspaces are colour coded, guiding staff on the suitability for different activities. The colours also assist staff in identifying where people are working that day. There is an Etiquette Officer responsible for ensuring that people do not sit at the same workspace each day.
Meeting rooms are scattered around each floor to conduct team meetings or client meetings. Most of these meeting rooms are fitted with iPad-style touch-TVs. Others have whiteboards. Some meeting rooms have couches, while others have standing desks.
This type of workplace has been created to improve collaboration and creative thinking. The thinking is that if staff are able to work in close proximity to people beyond their team, there is a burgeoning of ideas and connectivity that is not normally achieved.
It also encourages ‘activity-based working’ – otherwise known as agile working or flexi-working. If staff need to work at a client site or work from home, they are set up to do this. The focus is on productivity…. wherever you decide to work. The fundamental ingredient to make ‘activity-based working’ work is technology.
In some respects, this futuristic workplace negates the need for a flexible work policy. What becomes important is a performance management system to measure staff productivity.
No doubt there are many critics of this innovative workspace approach. However, I can’t say that current workplaces are effective either. I recently was working out of an office in Sydney that had an office for every employee including the new intern. I did not observe any team meetings or work –related discussions. I did observe people with doors shut and hiding in their office. Desks were messy, with paper and files strewn across the desk and floor.