Leading interior fitout company Amicus Interiors conducted a survey with Microsoft on how small businesses are responding to the Activity Based Working (ABW) model at the workplace.

The survey covered over 200 respondents from small businesses throughout Australia with 24 per cent of respondents belonging to workplaces with up to 10 employees.

Amicus Interiors CEO Mr Andrew Holder said the survey revealed over 70 percent of respondents understand and appreciate ABW and its positive impact on workplace productivity. However, smaller companies have shown reluctance or cite a lack of resources to implement it.

These employees worked in environments that had both offices and open plan spaces with over 35 per cent of respondents undertaking their last office fitout less than a year ago. Interestingly, only seven per cent of the respondents worked in an ABW space, with budget, IT limitations and unwilling staff being the major reasons for its lack of implementation.

The acceptance of activity based working spaces is also connected to the changing role of technology in the workplace and the introduction of services such as the cloud, social collaboration technologies and integrated communication systems. According to Mr Holder, technological advances have made it possible for businesses to allow staff the flexibility to work out of the office and from a number of devices. While these changes are core to ABW, small businesses struggle with the costs of implementing such technologies and are also challenged by workers’ attitudes towards ABW.

A majority of the respondents (178) indicated their willingness to adopt new technologies if they were to make the switch to ABW. Survey results also reveal over 44 per cent wanting to move to cloud based services; 40 per cent to centralised document management solutions; and 39 per cent to integrated communication systems.

Small businesses are struggling to switch over to technologies that will enable ABW workplaces not only because of the cost factor but also their existing working models that continue to use desktop and local based services; this means over 70 per cent of desks in the office are being used daily. Reluctance to accept new technology is a barrier to ABW implementation - 37 respondents said the current workplace culture was too difficult to change; given that many staff members wanted to keep their own desks and belongings, switching over to an ABW workplace becomes even more difficult for the business.

Refurbishing an office to accommodate the ABW model may involve a high investment; however, the fitout cost can be reduced by implementing different aspects of ABW and new technologies progressively, while also allowing the staff to gradually adjust to the new environment.