Sep 20, 2018 in Viewpoint

Key insights when switching to ABW

The switch to activity-based working often largely consists of technological and office modifications. Employees, however, must be capable of effectively adapting their behavior. Only once their behavior changes, the innovative buildings, and technological developments can be optimally utilized.

Anne Wernand
by Anne Wernand
Mapiq
People have to deal with change while switching to a ABW environment

Behaviour is habit

The way we work is changing. Whether it concerns activity based working or not, today’s work day is different than it once was. Office buildings are now places to meet. Employees are working from home more often and no longer have a permanent workstation at the office. This way of working requires an internal change of behaviour. And behavioural change is difficult. This is because behaviour often happens automatically and unconsciously. Suddenly employees have to focus their attention and energy on behaviours which they were unaware of.

Behaviour often occurs automatically and unconsciously

Generally speaking, the work place is a place where, for many people, not much changes. These are precisely the situations where habits form automatically. Every day, you step into the office building at 8:30, you sit at the same workstation and you have your lunch in the same cafeteria. Because the environment hardly changes, a strong link is created between the environment and behaviour. Whenever someone makes the same choice repeatedly, the decision process leading up to that choice becomes more and more automated. In this case, just entering the office building will trigger automatic behaviour. It becomes less and less of a conscious choice. In daily life, this mechanism is quite functional. It ensures that we do not have keep making the same deliberations and can focus on matters that do require our conscious attention. Just like in this situation: your work. It is difficult to break this link which has only been strengthened over the years and change your behaviour.

People do not change because others want them to

The run-up to the new way of working is often coupled with resistance. In addition, for many organisations, the switch to this new way of working is part of an important objective to cut costs, “You must change, or else...” As a result, some people slowly but unconsciously develop a fear of this change, which will only create more resistance. Our bodies are programmed to respond with the ‘fight or flight’ reaction whenever we experience fear or stress. When the body finds itself in this state of alertness, we only think of the short-term consequences of an action in order to successfully endure the situation. This is not handy when decisions need to be made from a long-term perspective.

All this fear and resistance is understandably but unnecessary. Eventually the new way of working will then simply become part of your system.

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