27 (122) 2016
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Real Estate & Construction

Offices follow employees

By Adam Targowski, Sustainability Manager at Skanska Property Poland
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The concept of the Activity Based Workplace has been developing throughout the world over the last 20 years.

It confirms that team efficiency and satisfaction can be enhanced by giving employees the opportunity to decide how, when and where they want to work. There is an increasing range of options – from traditional office desks to hammocks in creative zones and green, publicly available patios, passages, amphitheaters, social squares and cafes adjacent to office buildings. The office has ceased to be a hermetically sealed object with employees now more often able to work where they feel most comfortable.

According to a joint report by Skanska and JLL, and concluded under the patronage of ABSL, workplace comfort is becoming increasingly important for employees, especially those from the younger generation. This aspect includes both comfortably arranged office space and conveniently designed areas which form the office building's surroundings. Employees no longer tied to a particular office desk can decide for themselves where they feel most comfortable – it may be an office, a conference room, a terrace, an adjacent square or a café. This is the basis of the Activity Based Workplace concept originally defined for the first time in the 1990s by Erik Veldhoen, a Danish consultant and author of The Demise of the Office. Veldhoen’s research confirmed the fact that if employees had the chance to choose their work station, they could plan and organise their working day more productively.

Aspects such as convenient office space arrangement and the quality of the infrastructure surrounding the building are of growing importance for employees. Flexible space adjusted to tasks managed by particular employees – and to the employees' individual personalities – could provide them with the opportunity to select the best workplace available. As a result, one can find a quiet place to work or be in a more creative environment. Besides rich greenery and service points, amenities such as a bicycle infrastructure, shower cubicles and locker rooms for cyclists are also important. Experiences of companies working with the Activity Based Workplace model show that such an approach results in higher work satisfaction, lower staff turnover and greater team efficiency.

In Skanska’s office in Stockholm, over 1,500 employees share an open office space. None of the workers are assigned to a particular office desk. Nevertheless, they have at their disposal common project desks, conference rooms, rooms for informal meetings, an open kitchen and a unique relaxation zone where they can find a Play Station console, play table football or lay in a hammock. Some of the walls can be used as white boards, replacing traditional blackboards and flipcharts. Skanska’s office in Warsaw was also designed in accordance with the philosophy of the Activity Based Workplace concept. The Warsaw office's space arrangement works were preceded by research done by specialists from Workplace Solutions, who had been observing employees for several weeks, analysing their day-to-day activities, their mobility routes and the number of people present in the office at a particular time. As a result of this research, Skanska designed an office space which fully met the needs of the employees.

An office with no boundaries

The Activity Based Workplace concept is based on developing objects without boundaries in a literal and not just figurative meaning. The Spark office complex in Warsaw will be one of the office buildings in Poland, after Integracja Foundation concludes its audit, to be recognised with an Object with no Barriers certificate at the moment of it being commissioned for use. Foundations such as Na Miejscu and Project for Public Spaces - both specialising in friendly public spaces - were invited to co-operate on the design of the publicly available spaces in the complex. Thanks to consultations conducted with experts and the foundations’ support in collecting opinions from residents, Spark will be fully adjusted to the needs of people with different disabilities, mothers with children, and the elderly.

We also remember that office buildings cannot be excluded from day-to-day activities. They should fit in with the current urban tissue and increase the quality of public spaces. We surround them with greenery, public squares that often provide wifi access, elements of street furniture, cafes and places to rest. We want our buildings to comprise space where people can work on important company projects, take their families to lunch or read a book.

The aware developers get deeply involved in creating positive space around their investments. Sometimes, even in the construction phase they offer city residents a chance to rest in pocket parks or temporary squares. Thanks to that, places that are usually associated with busy main roads and noisy city centres, get small enclaves with greenery. A good example is the Corso Court office project in Prague. A green social square located around the building offers a ping-pong table, a chess table as well as a working zone. By using a special app developed specifically for the project, employees will be able to challenge colleagues to a ping-pong match, a round of chess as well as order lunch, rent a bicycle or check the availability of parking places. Certain functions of the app are also available to people who do not use the building every day.

Spaces developed around office buildings provide the employees and the local residents with a new, multi-functional infrastructure which can be used for professional and private needs. This is proof that offices are gradually becoming a part of local communities, rather than becoming isolated from them. We want our office buildings and the areas surrounding them to become friendly, open and available places.

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