ACT News

Activity-based workplace stands to deliver staff satisfaction for PwC

A Canberra employer says there has been a large rise in staff satisfaction and efficiency since switching to activity-based working and farewelling a traditional desk-based workplace. 

PwC in Canberra has had a 50 per cent increase in staff satisfaction since moving to a new workplace in Forrest, which was purposebuilt for "ABW" in June last year.

PwC consultant Tom Simmonds using a standup desk. No one now has an individual space that is theirs.
PwC consultant Tom Simmonds using a standup desk. No one now has an individual space that is theirs. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"I think that embodies that staff, holistically, see the benefits of an activity-based working environment," PwC Canberra managing partner Jeremy Thorpe said.

Mr Thorpe said the office had different spaces designed for different types of work.

"No one has an individual space which is theirs, so the IT system is designed around mobility," he said. 

"It's an integrated system that says, sometimes you want to be alone, but other times you want to work in a more collaborative style with your team; sometimes you want to stand up at a desk, sometimes you want to sit down at a desk, so finding the right environment to best suit the type of work and type of interaction you're going to have with your colleagues." 

Mr Thorpe said the standing desks were very popular.

"We do find people value, at least for an hour or a couple of hours, just being able to do that and not to feel bound to a desk," he said. 

"I don't see it as people want to stand up all day but they do see it as an opportunity to stretch the legs and not be as immobile." 

New research reveals replacing just one hour of sitting with standing can reduce a person's mortality risk by at least 5 per cent. 

Mr Thorpe said the survey also found that four in five staff reported feeling more efficient and effective in an ABW environment.

"If people are actually willing to give it a try and it's supported by the right technology and the right design, it's actually an environment that people do feel that they can be their best," he said. 

Mr Thorpe said there had been a "fair bit of trepidation" about whether illness in the office would increase after moving to activity-based working where more spaces were shared, but it had not happened. 

"We didn't see an uptick in illness and I think part of that is the flexible work style that if you've got an activity-based working environment, you may well say, you don't need to be at work to be productive. If you feel you're going to be ill, go home and work; we've got the IT to support it if that suits their particular work environment," he said.