Know your workers

Square pegs for round holes. It would seem that’s how much of today’s workforce views their places of work. According to recent research conducted by workplace benchmarking experts Leesman, 43% of employees globally do not believe their workplaces enable them to work productively.

This apparent mismatch – between the environments and tools offered by employers, and the reality of the day-to-day needs of employees – is at the heart of what agile working promises to address.

As Veldhoen & Company – the Dutch based originators of the activity-based working concept – put it: “Activity-Based Working is about you and your colleagues. It is about organising your work in a more productive and enjoyable way. Creating the best circumstances for each activity, whether it is developing ideas, delivering content or sharing knowledge.”

The power of profiling

It can be tempting to view a switch to agile working as a panacea for many woes – like underused desks, wasted office space, or the need for a leaner facilities budget. But the danger is that an oversimplified, under-researched approach will result in the other 57% of employees, who believe their workplaces do enable them to work productively, being left blindsided by switch to a way of working that simply doesn’t meet their needs.

The solution to this conundrum? Researching and profiling. By doing a comprehensive analysis of your employees – what tasks they perform day-to-day, what spatial areas and assets they make use of during the working day – you can begin to identify which workers need which environment to do their job well, and what proportion of your workforce sit in each of the different camps. This insight is invaluable for making key decisions such as the ratio of desks-to-workers, the location of collaborative spaces, and whether different teams or departments need different furniture solutions.

Employees under the age of 25 make up only 4.4% of the global workforce

It’s about tasks, not age

There are plenty of theories around how best to approach the profiling of employees for activity-based working. One theory has been that generations tend to think and work differently to each other – and therefore some breakdown of workers based on the year of birth makes sense. One example of this thinking is to equate Millenials with flexibility – and therefore assume that they will need, perhaps even demand, more flexible working environments than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.

The recent Leesman Index debunks this myth. It reveals that employees under the age of 25 make up only 4.4% of the global workforce, and often have a simpler work profile and more straightforward requirements than their counterparts – and hence are not, on the whole, in desperate need of agile working environments.

Instead, Leesman proposes an approach that looks at the complexity of an employees’ role – based on the number of different task types that employee undertakes. As their report puts it: “Our research consistently points to work activity complexity providing the strongest marker of an employee’s workplace infrastructure needs.” Or to put it another way – varied work requires a varied environment.

Introducing the 4 mobility profiles

The headline finding of the Leesman study was that the average number of activities across all employees was 10.5 – drawn from a pool of 21 possible activities. But underneath that headline, Leesman provide a useful breakdown of the 4 ‘mobility types’ within the workforce – profiles created based on the tasks those workers perform and how mobile they need to be to perform them: 

What type of office are you?

Here at Kinnarps, we’ve created a simple tool to get you thinking about the make-up of your workers – and the likely environment you will need to fulfil their needs. Why not take a look at the Kinnarps Next Office Online Self Check and see what office profile your place of work is revealed as?

The journey towards implementing an agile working environment is frought with not insignificant obstacles. But by being doing the research to genuinely discover how your workers work, you can lay the foundations for a successful transition to agile working – one that is well received by the people it affects.