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Are we facing a project-based future?

Adeline Teoh ed.
June 27, 2014

A project-based future needs a project-based work environment and it seems many organisations are already embracing activity based working.

Some years ago I proposed that the work of the future would all be project-based. I’ll let you in a on a secret: I never actually specified what time period I thought of as ‘the future’ so of course I could never be proven wrong. Despite this, I’ve seen a number of trends that solidify my case.

Just recently, fitout business Amicus Interiors teamed up with Microsoft to conduct a survey of businesses and how they regarded activity based working (ABW). A rough definition of activity based working is where the work environment supports the functions of the business rather than the individuals working in it. The goal is to optimise the environment for each task to increase productivity and enable better collaboration.

The results of the survey showed that most businesses were aware of ABW and were on board with the benefits. The issue was that a lot of their employees weren’t. If your desk—adorned with family photos, witty cartoons and motivational quotes—was your home away from home, would you want to give it up for a large round table when you need to collaborate, a booth when you need some privacy and a small meeting room when you need to chat with a colleague? Even the idea of moving around that much can put this in the too-hard basket for some workers.

They’re going to have to get use to it. The uptake of ABW is a symptom of an increasingly project-based workforce, not a some harebrained corporate scheme to treat workspaces like a Rubik’s cube, shuffling everyone around so all the people doing one thing are together like a coloured side.

The evidence fits in with our new understanding of multitasking, that it is not in fact conducive to productivity. It turns out focusing on one task at a time is better. ABW gives workers a specific environment for specific types of tasks.

Good news: the people who feel most at ease with ABW are project managers. Project managers are used to entering different environments for different reasons, whether it’s a team standup in a meeting room or a site visit where a bridge is being built. I say look forward to ABW redeveloping the joint.

What physical elements would you change about your current workplace?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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