Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of activity-based working?

Activity-based working provides staff with the freedom and flexibility to choose a space and facilities that best suit the task they are working on. Activity-based hubs include a variety of spaces, including quiet spaces for high-focused work, technology-enabled rooms for video and teleconferencing, formal collaboration spaces for small and large meetings and private spaces for confidential discussions.

Informal spaces such as break-out zones for relaxing and recharging, and a kitchen area and chat booths for socialising also support staff health and wellbeing. Ultimately, activity-based working is about giving all staff access to facilities that enable them to achieve their best in their roles.

Some of the advantages of activity-based working include: 
  • Enhanced flexibility and freedom for staff, allowing them to work in a way that suits their role and individual preferences
  • Improved communication and collaboration across business units
  • Increased sharing of ideas and knowledge
  • Increased productivity
  • The need for less space for workstations means there is more space for leading edge collaboration facilities, staff amenities and social spaces

My office is important to me and to my staff. How will we operate in a different environment? 

This new approach is about a shift in mindset; a transformation in the way we view our workplace culture, the way we interact with our colleagues and the way we interact with our patients. Our workforce of today and tomorrow don’t work in offices. Classrooms have changed, and primary and secondary schooling is already designed around activities, not a set desk in a set classroom.

WSLHD is renowned for collaborative working and innovation. ABW will take that innovation to a new level by providing opportunities for flexible working and better collaboration across disciplines and among staff.  Our workforce of tomorrow will be even more focused on their workplace experience, the quality of the patient experience and the quality of research and education outcomes. 

We recognise this mindset shift is significant and we will work across all levels of the organisation to manage the change over the coming years. Be assured that when and where you need to perform an activity, an appropriate space will be available for it. 

How will my manager or team members know what the team is doing every day?

ABW enables employees to collaborate through a variety of different settings – either in person or virtually – and is designed to better match the way we need to work (and in many cases, the way we already work). 

Even in our current office arrangements, managers typically don’t oversee the work of their teams through line of sight – they trust their people and check in with them on a regular basis to ensure things are tracking as planned and offer support as needed. While the way teams do this today may not be exactly the same in the new work space, a number of technology tools are provided to keep colleagues connected. 

It’s up to individuals, teams and managers to agree on the communication channel and frequency. Ultimately, all that should matter is that an employee is delivering – and exceeding – their agreed objectives.

Will my team have our own area?

No. Each person keeps their personal belongings in a locker, and shared items in team storage. Staff members need to think about what type of work they need to do on any given day, who they need to do it with, and then choose a work point that best supports this. This might mean that you choose and change your work point several times a day, based on the activity you’re doing. At times, you may be sitting with people from the same team, but you should also think about sitting with people in other areas of the business to collaborate directly with them.

My manager wants us all to sit with him/her every day. Can we do it?

Teams will have to consider how they stay connected with one another, how they share information and collectively track progress. For some teams, this might mean sitting together at certain times during the week, but there isn’t assigned seating for this purpose. It’s important to make the best use of space by using meeting rooms and collaboration spaces as intended. People should sit with those they need to support and collaborate with, and actively aim to increase their face-to-face time with other areas of the business.

Some leaders think that their offices are an expression of their importance within the business. What is being done today to change that mindset?

Our leaders are having to work through this change just like everyone else, and change is just as confronting for them as others. We are running a number of training and development sessions to help everyone make a successful transition. While it might be a challenge, our leaders are committed to this change because they see the organisational benefits.

Can I work from home instead of coming to the workplace?

At this point, we are not making any changes to the current work from home policy and arrangements. ABW will improve the work from home – or anywhere – experience through improved technologies and work practices, however working from home or remotely is still something to discuss with your manager, as we do today.

What is the consequence of not changing?

We stagnate as an organisation and don’t attract the high calibre of staff that WSLHD is known for. We will be locked into our current workspaces, with little ability to change.  Any change required will be more expensive and difficult to achieve. We will also not be able to meet our strategic and organisational objectives. 

But I do the same thing every day, why would I need to change?

There is more scope for flexible working in some jobs than others, however most jobs will have some scope for flexibility in where and how staff work. Even those people with similar tasks each day will benefit from being engaged with the design of new workspaces and being able to use the new technology-enabled work environments, meeting rooms, quiet zones and collaborative spaces. ABW will encourage collaboration that currently does not occur and encourage innovation and integration of care.

What doesn't it include?

ABW is not hot-desking. It is a more flexible, specially tailored workspace that provides staff with places that suit their needs.

With hot-desking or cubicles, you own the desk. With ABW, all staff should feel ownership over all workspaces and be free to use any specially designed area in the building – such as technology enabled tea-rooms or meeting rooms.

One of the key benefits is for staff currently in open desk arrangements – they will now have access to areas designed for intensive or confidential work. Organisations that have failed to implement ABW have not understood that it is so much more than work space – it is also the culture and management approach, and the technology.

Is this just a cost-saving exercise?

It is true that this approach sometimes costs less in terms of capital budget required. However, the cost reductions in capital, along with the increased benefits for staff far outweigh any argument for not changing. ABW means staff get to work in new, invigorating environments that are designed for the work that is being undertaken. Our workspaces become a tool for collaboration and knowledge creation, as well as getting spaces designed for private or quiet work.

The more efficiently we can design and use our workspaces, the more additional investment can be made into clinical areas and models of care, leading collaboration facilities and staff and social spaces.

The high-focus zone in O3Hub, the first activity-based working space at Westmead Hospital