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Luc Kamperman: Activity-Based Working

A carefully tailored approach is crucial to the success of the activity-based working model, says Luc Kamperman. The partner at Dutch workplace consultancy Veldhoen + Company talks to Narelle Yabuka about how to successfully implement strategic change.



BY jesse

21 August, 2013


The web is awash with articles about activity-based working (ABW) – many celebratory, others questioning. Among the benefits promoted by Dutch strategic workplace consultants Veldhoen + Company – a leader in ABW for over the last 15 years – are increased employee freedom and responsibility, enhanced potential for cross-functional communication and collaboration, and reduced office footprints.

INerpolis

Interpolis, the Netherlands, designed by Nel Verschuuren (and other subcontracted designers including Jurgen Beij, Marcel Wanders, Joep van Lieshout). Photography: Hugo Thomassen

“The background of most of the Veldhoen + Company consultants is in general business management, psychology, or change management,” explains Kamperman, who was in Singapore to speak at Herman Miller’s REACH event at Marina Bay Sands on 1 August. “A few have some background in facility management or design, which allows us to have a good connection point with interior designers,” he says. Kamperman’s own background is in general business management with a focus on change.

Interpolis

Interpolis, the Netherlands

Interpolis

Interpolis, the Netherlands

Veldhoen + Company’s website states that the organisation developed and refined the ABW concept in the Netherlands in the 1990s before taking it to Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the UK, and Scandinavia. “Our role is normally to work closely with a business to focus on how it runs, how it should run in the future, and what that means for its people. What type of employees would it like to have in the future? Does it still need an office at all? How big should that office be? And many related questions,” explains Kamperman.

“We help the business to come up with a concept, and then we produce a strategic brief that we hand over to the architects and interior designers. We work with the client to make sure that, from a change perspective, everyone is prepared to work in a different way.”

Commonwealth bank

Commonweath Bank, Sydney, Australia. Interior design by E.G.O. Group and Davenport Campbell

ABW is a philosophy, asserts Kamperman. “However, there’s a danger of it becoming a new trend as an office concept. It shouldn’t be that. A copy-based mode could potentially be quite dangerous. You need to make sure that an ABW solution suits the organisation and their future vision for how they want to be working internally and externally with their clients and partners. Also, it has to suit the corporate culture they have in place and the culture of the society they are part of.”

Commonwealth bank

Commonweath Bank, Sydney, Australia

Commonwealth bank

Commonweath Bank, Sydney, Australia

Kamperman has recently returned to The Netherlands from Sydney, where he spent five years working on Veldhoen + Company’s ABW implementations for the Macquarie Bank and the Commonwealth Bank. The latter was the world’s largest ABW implementation when it was completed in 2011. “We had never done a transition with more than 6,000 people at one go,” says Kamperman.

Macquarie bank

Macquarie Bank, Sydney, Australia. Interior design by Clive Wilkinson and Woods Bagot. Photography: Shannon McGrath

Large-scale change such as this takes time, he notes. “If you want to change your working culture, it can take a couple of years before it really gets embedded and people start to truly think differently rather than just working slightly differently.” He reflects on the Bank’s change as “really well executed”.

Macquarie bank

Macquarie Bank, Sydney, Australia

Veldhoen + Company has not yet undertaken any projects in Asia, but should the opportunity arise, Kamperman predicts that cultural considerations would affect the approach to ABW implementation. “In north-west Europe and Australia, cultures are quite liberal, and also focussed to some extent on the individual. In Asia I think there’s typically quite a different perspective.”

Macquarie bank

Macquarie Bank, Sydney, Australia

He continues, “In an ABW environment, in essence you want to empower everyone and give people a lot of autonomy. I think that could be quite a big leap for some Asian companies. It could be difficult for management to cope with, and at the individual worker level, it could be difficult to make that switch if you’re not used to having so much autonomy and empowerment in your daily work.”

Luc Kamperman

Microsoft, the Netherlands. Interior design by Savills Peach. Photography: Kim Zwarts

Does Kamperman think he could successfully implement ABW in Asia? “Absolutely. But you’d need to do it in small steps where everyone pushes for something new. Also, it would need to suit the current reality.”

Microsoft Netherlands

Microsoft, the Netherlands

Veldhoen + Company
veldhoencompany.com


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