At the heart of “Activity Based Workplaces” is the idea that the Activity will drive the selection of the most appropriate work setting. To better understand behaviours, it is therefore helpful to understand the Activity that is taking place.
Something that an individual or group does.
An Activity may be solitary or involve interactions with others, either in person or virtually. It typically is continuous for a Period (although may be interrupted, for example for comfort breaks).
Activities also usually take place with a fixed group of people and in one or more fixed Spaces for the entire Period – for example a meeting with five people taking place in a specific meeting room. However, these is not always the case: a mail room staff member might be undertaking a “deliver mail” Activity, which involves visiting a number of locations (aka Spaces); or a small group may be interviewing numerous candidates for a position, and whilst all the interviews may take place in the same room (Space), the candidates would come and go through the day (i.e. the Activity does not involve a fixed group of people for the whole Period).
Activities can helpfully be classified into those that are solitary and those that are undertaken in groups. Group activities are often referred to as interactions, and these are often very interesting in workplace strategy as arguably many aspects of productivity arise during such activities: for example, significant decisions or approvals are often established in a meeting, and innovation is often fuelled by serendipitous discussions.
The following definitions provide a useful classification of interactions:
One person or a minority of people in a group are conveying information to the remainder (majority) of the group.
A balanced dialog that is primarily work-related and that is taking place in an informal setting or context, typically without a written agenda.
A formal dialog that is primarily work-related and that typically will have a written agenda and take place in a more formal context like an enclosed meeting room.
An informal dialog that is primarily not work-related.
The interactions may be pre-arranged (and potentially include a Space reservation), or may occur in an unplanned, serendipitous fashion. Such serendipitous interactions are often perceived as highly desirable, particularly when workplace objectives include a desire to foster innovation.
Whereas interactions necessarily take place in a setting that is mutually agreed, individual activities can take place in work settings reflecting personal preferences.
These individual activities can still be classified in common ways:
VIRTUAL MEETING/ SPEAKING
Active engagement in a conversation with some remote participant(s) involving speaking. These activities create potentially distracting or disturbing noise for co-workers nearby.
Activities that require either acoustic or visual privacy to maintain confidentiality. For example, acoustic privacy may be required for a private phone call, and visual privacy might be required when handling sensitive documents (even if on screen).
Activities enabling prolonged concentration. These require an absence of distractions. This would usually imply a quiet environment, although some people prefer to undertake concentrative activities with background noise.
Activities that are thought-based, rather than action based. These maybe also be concentrative but could equally be relaxing.