Veldhoen + Company developers and thought leaders in ABW

ACTIVITY BASED WORKING

As alternative ways of working become more and more popular for organisations, many companies claim that they understand what it takes to make Activity Based working a reality for their clients, but no one has Veldhoen + Company’s unique experience and expertise. We first introduced Activity Based Working in the Netherlands in 1996 and are now doing the same in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

As pioneers and market leaders, we offer our clients something that no one else can, breadth of experience gained from real world implementations, and knowledge of what it takes to make ABW successful.

De Week van het Nieuwe Werken

A brief history of Activity Based Working.

Veldhoen + Company developed  and refined the concept of Activity Based Working in the Netherlands before taking it global. Initially Activity Based Working mainly involved switching to flexible workplaces and drastically reducing the number of desks and offices required. Some of the budget saved in leasing and fit out was invested in a higher spec working environment and IT.

Over time we saw the focus on individual offices disappear, and increasingly staff were meeting with employees from other departments or units. As a result teamwork, cross-functional collaboration, employee satisfaction and consequently business performance improved.

Today, organisations continue using Activity Based Working to achieve quantifiable operational targets, however increasingly its introduction is being linked to cultural change programmes with ABW providing a platform for transforming the business.

We also see the dynamics of the talent market and the technologies that support business are shifting. A growing number of employees are able to (and expect to) work efficiently and effectively regardless of time or location. They make their own decisions about their work and make the necessary arrangements with their co-workers to achieve the outcomes they are accountable for. Activity Based Working has shifted from a fringe idea to something every organisation should consider as part of their work culture.

Activity Based Working leads to new insights that focus on the core of the organisation: it reminds them that motivation is about more than setting targets; connecting means more than interlocking individual choices and rules; and commitment involves more than attending the Friday afternoon get-together.

All these insights and trends show that there is much work ahead. Veldhoen + Company is ready to take on that work, knowing that Activity Based Working is continuing to evolve and increase in value.

Aspirations

Activity Based Working is not a one size fits all approach. Each of our clients have  different objectives for their business and for their work style. Veldhoen + Company’s role is to help  map out the best route for getting there based on our experience and expertise developed across a variety of implementations.

What you want Activity Based Working to do for your organisation determines  the journey your organisation will need to take. In very broad terms organisations choose to implement Activity Based Working for a combination of  three core aspirations:

Sharing, Connecting, and Transforming.

…and of course you can have elements of all three.

reference project 2

Province of Overijssel

The Province of Overijssel is the first Dutch province to work according to the principles of the New Way of Working. Since mid-2007, its thousand employees share approximately seven hundred flexible workspaces.

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reference project 1

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank introduced activity based working in their latest campus building in Sydney, as they recognise that people work more effectively when they have flexibility. The new work-style has been so successful that they are rolling it out for two new major Group developments in Perth and Auckland.

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Sharing

Developing a workstyle focused on Sharing means that you want to deal flexibly and efficiently with your office space.

The focus here is on building an office environment matched to the important activities of the business (fit for purpose) while providing efficient and sustainable management of your space (and likely reducing your footprint). The change in your organisation is focused on employees planning what they need to do and with whom, when they will do it, and where the best place is to do it,- boosting individual productivity and creating opportunities for improved teamwork.

Sharing

When developing a workstyle focused on Sharing , Activity Based Working involves introducing a flexible and activity-related workplace. Employees no longer have their “own” office or desk. Where they choose to work depends on the work they plan to do and whether they need to  collaborate with others. Gone is the idea that “this is my desk” or “this is my office”.

Sharing breaks old habits and customary patterns around the ownership and allocation of space. The main aim is to improve the services offered to employees by offering more choice and options to suit the way individuals work, while gaining efficiencies which come from sharing the workplace. By letting go of the old, we also create more room for people to interact in ways they haven’t before..

By combining this view of the office with an increased effort in enabling and promoting flexible working (working from home, etc.) results in a sharp reduction in your outlay on facilities, and more budget available to improve the quality of your IT and working environment.

Sharing:

  • More (and better) facility choices for employees
  • New ways of connecting and interacting
  • Cost savings

reference project 2

Microsoft

There were two key questions in this project: how can we make the organisation more self-managing, and how do we learn to strike a better balance between work and private life? The open dialogue about these questions taught employees to make conscious decisions and enhanced cooperation between them.

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reference project 1

Macquarie Bank

Macquarie Bank’s Financial Services Division has embraced activity based working to break down internal silos by improving collaboration and transparency. People are empowered to work and connect with each other as needed in order to build stronger client relationships. Staff engagement has increased significantly.

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Connecting

Developing a workstyle focused on Connecting means... 

...that you want to build an organisation in which cross functional communication, collaboration and effectiveness is enhanced. The change for your organisation involves developing a culture and leadership style, physical workplace, and IT environment which support a mobile and connected workforce. We do this by empowering employees to make decisions and access the people they need to so that they are creating greater value for their customers and the business.

Connecting

When developing a workstyle focused on Connecting, Activity Based Working is linked directly to ensuring that people can organise themselves in a way which creates rich connection between departments and breaks down the issues related to silos created by physical separation.

How each organisation need to connect is different and the Activity Based Working solutions we develop with our clients are designed to match their particular needs around Connecting. The solution for a client looking to improve their product development lifecycles by bringing the teams who need to contribute together in a flexible way will be different to one looking to ensure communication between sales regions is seamless so that opportunities are maximised. The change focuses on enabling employees to choose for themselves and handle responsibility. They are enabled within the framework defined by the organisation’s objectives.

Through alignment of purpose, shared objectives, and a flexible workplace employees have what they need to take more conscious decisions, either individually or in teams to support the objectives for the organisation. They are supported in this by a physical environment designed to focus the employees on their need for connection and IT facilities which enable the free sharing of ideas and information.

Connecting

  • More (and better) facility choices for employees
  • Focus on connecting and interacting, ensuring that collective is truly more than the sum of the parts
  • Improved business results where it matters
  • Cost savings

reference project 1

Wageningen City Council

The Municipality of Wageningen is embarking on a process of change within an organisation of over three hundred people. As Municipal Secretary Marijke Verstappen states ‘what’s more important than either the content or the outcome, is that the organisation begins to change and that the staff feel they own the change'.

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Transforming

Developing a workstyle focused on Transforming means that you want to grow into an agile learning organisation.

The change is not necessarily to a singular destination but rather about developing organisational capability and resilience to change so that your people can rapidly and effectively capitalise on the opportunities of the shifting market. The change is focused on developing individual entrepreneurship and offering employees freedom to act accordingly..

Transforming

When developing a workstyle focused on Transforming we focus less on on Activity Based Working as such, but rather we focus the core of the organisation. For example: How do we get ourselves to truly focus on and add value to the client even as the need sof our clients change? How do we bring about genuine market adaptability? These are complex questions that cannot be answered merely by setting targets and drawing up business plans. They are at the core of how people interact within their organisation, the way in which they are led, and the freedoms they have to make decisions not only about how and when they work, but on what is the most important thing to focus on and deliver.

The Activity Based Working solution focus on creating a stable (clearly understood and effect) but dynamic environment with support and focus on the underlying organisational questions. Veldhoen + Company’s methods offer processes and inspiration needed to make these questions tangible and manageable and we help you develop solutions which will last (even as the conditions change) and are robust because it becomes part of the working DBA of your organisation.

The result is at the individual level is personal leadership which enables the organisation to respond quickly and effectively to its internal and external environment. Strict monitoring, rules and procedures become things of the past and there is a strong emphasis on a collective vision and strategic course.

Connecting + Activity Based Working as the constant

  • Agile learning organisation
  • Individual entrepreneurship
  • Sustainable

Questions & answers

Is Activity Based Working suitable for every organisation?

We haven’t found anyone yet who wouldn’t benefit from it! Every organisation is different, and that means that Activity Based Working has to be adapted to their industry, market, objectives and culture. Activity Based Working is about focusing on the activities the business needs to be successful given it’s aspirations and letting go of others which don’t serve it. One of the most important features of Activity Based Working is that it gives employees more freedom and more responsibility. They not only decide where and when they work, but they often also have a say in such matters as scheduling or how to tackle a particular task.

The degree of freedom and responsibility allowed for within the defined organisational framework can differ from one employee to the next, depending on their backgrounds, positions, job descriptions, personalities, personal circumstances, and so on. Based on the notion that all employees are trusted professionals, each one can make his or her own decisions (in close consultation with others), thereby creating new individual opportunities within Activity Based Working.

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Is Activity Based Working just a fad?

No. Activity Based Working provides a platform for true transformational change in the organisations operations. Each development is individual and tailored to the specific needs and drivers of the client organisation’s change. Veldhoen+Company strongly avoids a cookie cutter approach which ensures we continue to meet the demands of new trends that occur in society, in technology and also with physical design. Over time the question for organisations continues to be: how can we make our organisation stronger and more resilient? 

The answer provided by Activity Based Working remains  relevant: by developing a work style in which individual employees have maximum support for their work, in which communication, knowledge-sharing and cooperation are key, and in which employees are increasingly called on to show initiative and take responsibility. In short, telecommuting and slick furnishings may become mundane or even passé, but having a stronger organisation is as relevant as it ever was, and that is something that Veldhoen + Company are committed to achieving through every implementation of Activity Based Working .

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Is it a good idea to link change programmes that are already under way to Activity Based Working?

It’s often a good idea to group different programmes that serve the same purpose under the same heading, so that a unified objective is achieved, but it does depends on the type of change. It's important to have a consistent message, and  employees should have a clear idea of the direction the organisation is headed. They should understand that the relevant change programmes are part of the same movement, however, be critical about the form this takes. Avoid making things unnecessarily complicated by grouping change programmes together that don’t really belong with one another or have significantly different time horizons.

It’s important to remember that one part of what  Activity Based Working promotes is a more integrated organisation where different areas (functions, programmes, etc.) are more connected. With Activity Based Working the need to hard wire programmes together is reduced and often the ABW programme team can role model this new behaviour even as the programme is forming.

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How do I make sure that employees make good use of their new freedom?

Many organisations draw up rules and regulations to manage efficiency, communication, productivity, etc. - the question is, what do these rules and regulations have to do with ideal employee behaviour?
What we see in organisations is that rules and regulations cause behaviour to remain virtually the same (or even present more of what the rule is looking to dissuade) and also prevent people from moving forward. People hide behind the rules or depend on them to function, but behaviour can only really change when we are forced out of our comfort zones, when we start to question our habits and start trusting ourselves and others. We do not believe in putting too many restrictions on employee freedom, we believe there should be  room for self-management.

When their freedom is restricted, it’s mainly the employees’ attitude that changes, and not their behaviour. To ensure that greater freedom doesn’t prevent the organisation from achieving its goals, the change process must focus on the objectives of the organisation and increase accountability at thw same time as offering additional freedoms. By discussing these matters both before and after the change, employees will develop a new socially approved standard and stick to it. They will back that standard themselves (meaning less need to police the rules) and ensure that it’s embedded deep in the organisation.

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