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AAU Shared Services to share fewer workspaces

AAU Shared Services to share fewer workspaces

Ten employees will have to share seven office workspaces. This is the guideline that all Shared Services units must navigate when the university needs to save a total of DKK 40 million by 2022 on the AAU building budget. Management, staff and CAS will implement the activity-based design together over the next year and a half.

Text: Trine Kristensen, AAU Communication
Photo: Emilie Bach Pedersen, student assistant, AAU Communication
Translation: LeeAnn Iovanni, AAU Communication

Correction 4 November 2020: The first sentence has been changed to 'AAU must save DKK 40 million annually on expenses for rent and maintenance of buildings from 2022.' from 'AAU has to save DKK 40 million on the cost of renting and maintaining buildings by 2022.'

AAU must save DKK 40 million annually on expenses for rent and maintenance of buildings from 2022. Part of this saving will be achieved by introducing an activity-based design in all Shared Services units in Aalborg, Esbjerg and Copenhagen.

Activity-based design includes sharing workspaces, which means a farewell to one desk per staff member.

Positive experiences with digital forms of work and low occupancy in office workspaces

Instead, ten staff members will share seven office workspaces when Shared Services is scheduled to implement activity-based design in mid-2022.

- 2020 has shown us the positive aspects of flexible and digital forms of work, albeit against a somewhat serious background of the coronavirus pandemic. We have discovered that our work can be done well from other places and in other ways than by each of us sitting at our desk at the university. Previous mappings of how much of the time our office workspaces are actually used have shown that there is only 40-60 percent occupancy – in other words, there is a great potential for savings if we make optimal use of our facilities, says University Director Antonino Castrone.

Brains over bricks

Activity-based design has previously been discussed in Shared Services, most recently at end of 2019. The idea was met with a great deal of resistance and insecurity among staff and was therefore put back on the shelf. The university director concedes that it may seem controversial to revisit the subject now, less than a year after the latest discussions.

- I can see it's early to talk activity-based design again, and I understand that it can seem paradoxical. However, we want to prioritise our resources for our core activities and strategic development, and of course talented staff play a crucial role here. Put another way, we’re prioritising brains over bricks, and when we can make much better use of our buildings and premises, I think it would be quite a mistake not to save here, explains Antonino Castrone.

The expected savings per year on activity-based design in the Shared Services units alone are DKK 3.5 million as a result of terminated leases.

The workplace must still be sound in terms of health and safety

Insecurity and practical challenges of no longer having permanent seats for all staff members are real issues that need to be addressed in the upcoming implementation period. And while the coronavirus period has yielded good experiences with digital meetings and working from home, shared workspaces of fewer square metres are a bit of a wild card.

- Both the pros and cons of activity-based design have been discussed in our joint and local consultation committees, and of course the risk of infection in our office environments must be taken into account. It goes without saying that our workplace design must be both safety and health friendly at all times – this was true before the coronavirus, and this is also true now that the coronavirus is here. Therefore, physical and technical facilities must of course be in place and we must ensure that desks and other high-touch surfaces are kept clean, explains Antonino Castrone.

Possibility of accommodating special needs for permanent workspaces

The goal is that all Shared Services units in Aalborg, Esbjerg and Copenhagen will be changed to activity-based design and shared workspaces by mid-2022.

- The unit management, staff members and CAS will handle the specific design of the departments as a team. Staff members will know which building and which area they can find a place in – each unit gets its home area. In addition, it is possible to accommodate special needs for permanent workspaces where special conditions or tasks require it, says Antonino Castrone.

The entire organisation must help with better use of building inventory

The Shared Service units are now looking at how the activity-based design can be implemented in each unit.

The Executive Management has also agreed that the organisation should look at more efficient, flexible and appropriate use of our building inventory throughout the entire organisation. This will be discussed in more detail in each main area.

Read more about the background for the savings in this AAU Update article from 29 May 2020: 'Top university management: AAU must travel less and reduce the number of square meters'