Take a seat, any seat: the end of the office desk
Managing Director ACT of Jones Lang LaSalle, Andrew Balzanelli, left, in the company's Civic office, with some of the staff. Photo: Graham Tidy
Andrew Balzanelli is one ACT managing director relaxed on his return to work to find some one else in his seat.
Framed photos of his children and pets no longer adorn the walls of his office, nor do files spill over his desk.
Ten months have elapsed since Jones Lang LaSalle, Canberra, became the first in its global real estate network to adopt activity-based working.
No one has an office. They share benches and rather than look at walls, borrow views across the office to the city's skyline and bush landscape beyond.
Mr Balzanelli said employers liked to say people were their biggest assets, but in reality many workplaces treated them like confined cattle.
Activity-based working moved them from two work settings - office and meeting room - to a choice of eight settings including a cafe, formal work points, informal drop-in zones, meeting rooms, hush rooms and focus desks.
As more mobile phones and tablet computers link to server-stored documents in offices, activity-based working is set to replace open plan office layouts in Canberra, as it has in major banks in the bigger capital cities and throughout Europe.
Canberra professional services group Citadel managing director Miles Jakeman said now that emails and appointments on a computer were linked to phones more people would work remotely from offices.
"We're in the process of rolling out secure enterprise-grade video conferencing onto our iPads and mobile phones to improve communication, as well as linking these mobile devices more into internet provider networks to reduce overall costs."
Outside of his organisation, Mr Jakeman said bench-style work areas and social breakout areas were emerging more in the private sector than in the public service.
He said a Kingston advertising agency's social break out area surrounded a pool table. This may be a leap too far for the public service trying to avoid perceptions of misusing taxpayer funds.
Government departments are looking at Jones Lang LaSalle's operation that discards hierarchy and relies on technology, self-management and neatness.
Colliers International ACT spokesman Tim Mutton said lawyers would be the least likely to share working spaces.
Information technology consultants and advertising agencies, on the other hand, were among private sector companies contemplating activity-based working.
"Staff retention is most important in leasing. Tenants are thinking how will this space attract staff, or will it give them reason to leave?"
Jones Lang LaSalle has increased staff from 45 three years ago to an expected workforce of 100 by year's end, yet its office space will remain unchanged for at least another six years.
"(ABW) is just starting to take off. The best day was the day we walked in," Mr Balzanelli said.