Activity Based Working in a municipality
03/07/2016 - 20:45

Should we make savings through premises costs or personnel resources? The City of Kaarina sets an example

Efficiency requirements are an integral part of working life today. However, the changes demanded by these do not necessarily have to be for the worse. Activity-based offices create savings, support employee wellbeing and increase work efficiency. In my experience, many municipal decision-makers and employees are looking for change. The City of Kaarina is an excellent example of municipality-level change management in which the premises solution supports management.

Participation and commitment are key

Ensuring personnel commitment at the planning stages is especially important for motivation. This produces far more functional results because the personnel are the experts in their work.

From the perspective of change management, it is essential that the personnel understand the principles behind the activity-based office. In my experience, employees are often concerned that customers’ privacy protection can be compromised in an activity-based office, for example. In Kaarina, employees who require a personal office for their duties have one. Everyone can select the workspace to suit the work task at hand.

Survey of utilisation rates is an important step

Technological development means that a significant proportion of work is done outside the office. According to studies, workstations in the Helsinki metropolitan area are unoccupied more than half of the time although they constitute the second-largest expense item after personnel costs. Do you know how many hours your meeting room is in use per week? That’s precisely what I’m talking about.

In Kaarina, the plan was to raise the utilization rate of workspaces and eliminate unnecessary leasing and heating costs. A working environment survey was carried out to assess the needs and wishes of different employees. It transpired that the majority of employees didn’t need their own workstation after all. The mayor had the largest personal office, which he only used for a fraction of his working hours. To set an example to his employees, he decided to give up his status symbol and work without a permanent workstation.

Up-to-date user information facilitates reaction

Real-time user information is collected in activity-based offices. The data provide a basis for future workplace design, and changing premises requirements can be addressed quickly. This improves employee wellbeing. In Martela’s furniture, the measurements are made with unobtrusive wireless sensors.

Openness increases information flow

The activity-based office eliminates hierarchies, which are quite common in the public sector. In Kaarina, the mayor will be working in the same premises as the other employees in the future. From the management perspective this will have a substantial impact on communication, as information will readily flow in both directions. It may lead to a radical improvement in the efficiency of the public sector. In Kaarina, this was seen to improve the municipality’s image.

The public sector is blinkered despite the varied customer needs. When planning encourages natural meetings and co-operation, unnecessary barriers crumble, and tacit knowledge is also passed from one employee to another.  

Employees are individuals

The concept of fairness has forced all employees into the same mould. However, people are individuals also in the municipal sector. Studies show that when an employee can influence his or her activity and select the most suitable ways of working, wellbeing increases. For some, this means working from home. Some might want to work in a quiet area of an office, while others prefer to be around other people. This new way of management requires trust in the employee. It’s not where the work is done that matters – it’s the results that are achieved.

Improvement in employee wellbeing

According to studies, employees’ wellbeing at work improves as a result of transferring to an activity-based office. Happier people are also more efficient and innovative. That, if anything, creates savings!

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Workday designer
Workday Designers
VP, Customer Supply Management
Martela Oyj
Director, Education
Vice President, Innovation to Market

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