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About our ABA 100 Win for Business Innovation

The Australian Business Awards Recognise Australia’s Business, Innovation & Technology Leaders. These awards are an annual all-encompassing awards program which recognises organisations that demonstrate the core values of business innovation, product innovation, technological achievement and employee engagement via a set of comprehensive award categories.

Amicus embraces smart tech and smart working for efficiency.

One of Amicus’ central initiatives has been the transition to Agile Working. Traditionally a method adopted by large corporations in the interest of saving money on real estate and bringing teams together, it has been unusual for smaller businesses to develop this new way of working.

Amicus embraced the challenge of translating activity based working for the company when faced with the issue of fitting a growing team into a smaller workspace and initiating an environment where the team was connected and collaborative on all levels.

To translate Agile and Activity-Based Working (ABW) into SMB, Amicus began by creating a platform internally, before developing an external path that could be shared with clients. When moving office in 2015, Amicus decided to rent a smaller space despite the team growing significantly.

“We realised this could have far-reaching implications: providing us with an opportunity to imbue the team with a workplace culture that encourages adaptability and trust.” James Kemp, Joint CEO & Founder.

The guiding principle is to enable choice, and place a strong focus on the happiness and wellbeing of the team.

“Both Agile and Activity-Based Working is a distillation of core company values that exemplify our belief that it is the people who make a business thrive.” Andrew Holder, Joint CEO & Founder.

One of the core tenets of ABW is that staff are allowed to choose their location by the type of activity that they will be performing. Clever zoning supports solo and concentrated work, solo work with an openness to team disruption, collaborative activities, and of course a large open social area to promote social interaction and positive cultural behaviour.

“A strong work/life balance is essential, and adopting ABW would mean we’d not only provide a variety of settings in the office environment to work from, but we also need to ensure the best technology to allow everyone to work from wherever they want.” James Kemp.

With a strong focus on technology, ABW aids the individual choice of location, personal productivity, and team communication. They key with this process is to use the physical space to unlock new behaviours.

Thinking critically about your business’ physical space could be one of the keys to your progress. By identifying how employee behaviour is shaped by a variety of forces in the environment and how you can harness those forces to drive change. Better collaboration, higher productivity, and stronger motivation are some of the possibilities that this intelligent design approach offers.
The first stage in the implementation of Activity-Based Working is a period of company psychoanalysis. ABW is not a one-size-fits-all solution there are degrees of ABW to be applied to different organisational styles, different teams, and different geographies.

“A self-diagnosis - specifically around employer demographics - was conducted first; not just to determine whether ABW would be compatible with Amicus’ culture but also what mutation of ABW would be best applied given that culture.

“From here, there has to be management buy-in. In our case, it was our joint CEOs who were first to let go of the paperwork and private offices, a crucial first step in roll-out that we continue to recommend when approaching an ABW solution with clients. In our case, ABW was primarily motivated by financial considerations that had us in a smaller space. Having our CEOs lead from the front in embracing the first changes in getting out of the corner office and out amongst everyone else was critical in convincing staff that ABW isn’t about cost-cutting or just some gimmick.” Simon Coles, Workplace Strategist & COO

Moving into an existing building not specifically designed for ABW meant Amicus had to consider a variety of factors when it came to outfit. Firstly, air conditioning of existing buildings being retrofitted for ABW needs to be re-evaluated for new employee densities - a stuffy office is not a healthy or productive place. We drew upon sufficient research on the effect of indoor climate on employee productivity: learning that an indoor climate even 2˚ above a person’s preferred temperature can result in a 10% loss in productivity.

The linchpin of our ABW roll-out was careful consideration around furniture and physical division of the workplace. ABW typically offers a greater variety of spaces where employees can work depending on the task at hand and outcome desired. This variety puts a lot of options on the table as to how to outfit a workplace. Our expertise in interiors helped us to balance the number of hot desks, communal spaces, and interactive instances that catalyse innovation through moments of serendipity - getting people to bump into each other to talk, possibly about work in a low-risk environment. Amicus was able to orchestrate these valuable encounters by creating a café-style kitchen space that prompts the kind of random connections tea rooms and watercoolers once had a monopoly on.

“There is also a sense in which ABW is never finished being implemented. There is still a large swath of the workforce who hasn’t come into contact with this way of working. As such, we need to continually give due care in interviewing to ensure a cultural fit, but also to provide new employees with resources to ease their transition into ABW. Through our detailed ‘Discover Amicus’ document, we ensure that new staff are not overwhelmed by what could be a big shift in their style of working.” Simon Coles.

This document circumvents discussion of the theoretical framework of ABW, instead providing new employers with actionable steps to become acclimated. As ABW is just one instantiation of Amicus’ culture of freedom and trust, this document also outlines other wellness benefits that Amicus is proud to provide to staff.

“Staff surveys have shown that the team feel a heightened feeling of trust and freedom, enabled to make a personal choice as to whether they are in or out of the office to achieve their goals for that day. The purpose our surveys was to gather feedback from the team about how the workspace and the flexible approach towards it allowed us to affect productivity and general happiness. Amicus aim to be an Optimal Human Environment in which to operate - gathering suggestions and opinions from the team can only aid the process of reaching a high-performing team.” Kirsten Higgins, Head of Talent.

The roll-out of Activity Based Working has yielded key insights that Amicus has been able to share with clients.

“The launch of Amicus’ People & Culture and Workplace Strategy offering has allowed us to work closely with clients to achieve successful outcomes for their main drivers of change. By reviewing the essence and DNA of a client’s organisation - and comparing and contrasting that with Amicus - we have turned the ABW initiative conducted internally into a key case study of an ABW implementation.” Simon Coles, Workplace Strategist & COO

One of the corollary benefits of ABW was a shift in attitude around work: one that places trust and freedom at the centre. This prompted the introduction of Green Time: allowing the team to balance their work and personal lives. Green Time is time away from the office without question. Unquestioned time off allows everyone to make a choice when they work and when to take time off to do something personal, whether it is going to the gym during the day, or taking the afternoon to go to a school play. Naturally, once the parameters of Green Time were tested internally, it became a secondary initiative promoted by Amicus’ Workplace Strategists. The clients of Amicus’ People & Culture Team also report similar positive change in the behaviours of their teams. Businesses are realising the biggest asset they have is their team, and therefore to attract, hire, and retain the best staff means looking after their happiness and wellbeing with a culturally positive environment. ABW is a excellent first step towards this.

“Strategy and innovation are inherently linked at Amicus. Our strategy encompasses both the present and the future. We have big ideas incorporated in our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), but it’s important to never take our eye off the ball in the present, to keep driving improvements and new ideas, and to aim above our targets.

Our Big Hairy Audacious Goals are called that for a reason, and all activities we do in the present have a role in shaping the vision for Amicus in 10 years. There are many companies that can create commercial interiors, and some even with the added value of Amicus’ extended products, however, our strategy is to create a brand ahead of the rest, a company who do things differently and ahead of the crowd.” Andrew Holder

We are lucky at Amicus to have a company that is not too large or corporate, one that is still adaptable and ever-changing. An initiative like ABW has brought into focus a cornerstone of our culture: flexibility is borne out through trust and belief in your team. One of the key traits of Amicus is accountability. Each team member has a strong dedication to the wider purpose of their role, a set of KPIs, and 100-day goals to give them focus. But there is always the question, one that every employee is encouraged to constantly be asking and answering: how can we do things better? If you know a better way, educate the company and let’s adapt. By bringing in the best people, they are likely to bring in newer, better ideas. We bring up innovation and free thinking right from the interview, and hire people who bring knowledge with them.

The owners of Amicus have never been afraid to put money to ideas, with no guarantee of success. We aim to try, investigate, then reassess and refine until we get it right. We watch competitors in more progressive countries, and look into how we could work differently.

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Date 21 August 2017 By Megan Greig