Over the next few weeks we will be sharing with you excepts from a soon to be released Herman Miller publication: Album One. Album One talks about the changes affecting workplace design and we will bring you sneak peeks from some of the thought leaders we spoke to when compiling our book.
Today we speak to Luc Kamperman, Partner at Veldhoen + Company, the Dutch consultancy that originally developed the Activity Based Working (ABW) philosophy in the Netherlands in the early 1990's. Luc has worked on the largest ABW implementations globally from Rabobank in the Netherlands to Macquarie Bank (Sydney 2007-2009), Commonwealth Bank (Sydney), Medibank (Melbourne) and PwC Australia (Perth and Sydney) to name just a few.
We talked a little to Luc on how he came to be involved in workplace design and what his favourite Herman Miller product is (of course!)
How did you come to be involved in workplace design? I hold a master in Business Management and actually didn’t know anything about workplace design initially. In 2002 I joined Veldhoen + Company who are strategic workstyle consultants. Looking at improving the way people and companies work. This includes IT and work environments. As a result I became very fascinated by the impact different environments have on people. Many people do not enjoy work while being productive at the same time.
How do you approach a brief or new project? By challenging the status quo and focusing on the future. You can’t resolve problems with the same mind-set that created it. If you build for the future, your thinking has to be revolutionary.
What inspires you in this field? People. The impact that a change of work style has on them. I love the experience of people working in a dramatically different way and enjoying it.
What is your favourite Herman Miller design? I personally love design but as an important aspect in the whole loop of changes that is needed to make work effective and joyful. Functionality is most important. And design needs to inspire people. If I have to pick one Herman Miller design I like it’s the Eames Lounge and Ottoman as it supports thinking and reflection time. Crucial for creating the future.
Read below an except from Luc's article for Album One: Independent Thoughts.
It’s not about the building: Introduction to activity based working (abridged)
Today our economies are based on innovation and change. Organisations cannot move forward by standing still. One of the key challenges of management is to design flexible organisations that replace vertical hierarchies with horizontal networks, linking traditional functions and forming strategic partnerships with suppliers, clients and even competitors. The tools of this age give us nearly limitless flexibility and mobility. As a result we are no longer tied to a desk, an office, or indeed regular office hours to acquire, process and distribute information. This ability to work anywhere begs the question: what is the office for?
The primary function of an office is shifting from a factory where we process information, to a hub where we collaborate, share and learn. The philosophy of activity based working (ABW) is to give every employee the freedom to work in the most natural way to produce quality outcomes for their clients, and their organisation. In doing so, work becomes more enjoyable, more efficient, and more effective, benefitting one and all. It might sound simple, but the impact and consequences for our working behaviours are enormous.
ABW challenges unnecessary rules and procedures, permanent workplaces, and regular working hours. It promotes knowledge sharing, more pervasive collaboration, personal accountability, and entrepreneurship. From this, we see increased engagement and cross functional collaboration that breaks down silos and unifies organisations, improves employee satisfaction and therefore increases productivity. In contrast to Europe, the ABW concept is relatively new in Asia Pacific. In 2008, Macquarie Bank and Commonwealth Bank were the first companies to successfully implement activity based working in Sydney, Australia. However the success of these projects has lead to a buzz around ABW that risks reducing ABW to mere hype, drawing parallels between ABW and hot-desking.
ABW is much more than this, and the real benefits can only be assured when ABW is implemented in an integrated way with the right focus on the virtual environment (technology and information management), the physical environment (the physical fit-out) and the so called behavioural environment (people and culture). All of this needs to be supported by a change management program that ensures it’s not a hollow and intellectual change, but is truly embedded in how we work and lead differently in the future. Implemented effectively, ABW is truly a workstyle for today.