Bankwest Activity Based Working Case Study

Bankwest Offices This case study was originally published by Tech Research Asia in 2013 and written independently of any sponsorships or funding. Images courtesy of Bankwest.

Executive Summary

This Tech Research Asia end user case study analyses the results of the adoption of activity based working (ABW) by Bankwest in Perth, Western Australia. Bankwest is one of many in the Australian banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry that are driving the adoption of leading edge technologies and work styles for the end user computing environment. This Bankwest case study delivers a comprehensive analysis of how ABW is being viewed by those responsible for the work style adoption and technology implementation in terms of business outcomes. It includes an overview of the business drivers for ABW, details on the projects implementation, an analysis of the results of adopting ABW and next steps for Bankwest.

Key Findings

Bankwest’s top outcomes from ABW were Innovation, Productivity and CSR. Talent management also rated highly.

ABW accelerates efforts to align IT with business goals and creates greater interaction between IT staff and general workers.


Consider broadening your focus from the ABW real estate conversation to the bigger value picture, especially around the potential for improvements in process and practice, and culture and people as this is where the real competitive advantage will come from.

The Dashboard

Name: Bankwest (a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia)
Size: 2700 Employees
Industry: Banking and Financial Services
Countries: Australia
Project snapshot: Adoption of Activity Based Working in Perth, Western Australia.
Results: ABW contributed most to Innovation, Productivity and CSR. Talent Management also rated highly.
Future: Bankwest is now evaluating a BYOD policy and will upgrade its standard desktop environment to Windows 8.

The When, Who and What

To date activity based working (ABW) has been a different experience with varying goals for those that have adopted the work style in Australia. However, common across all organisations is an attempt to generate optimal work spaces for employees by embracing a matrix of best practice across physical spaces, culture and people, technology, and processes and practices. Although some industries (e.g. construction, law enforcement, hospitality, etc.) already have “activity-based” operations, ABW today is primarily concerned with office-based employees.

ABW is not hot desking, hoteling, co-working or any other type of work style currently being pursued. While some organisations have and will adopt a mixture of these approaches, ABW should be viewed as a unique work style in its own right. At a base level ABW aims to provide a platform for more collaborative, team-oriented and open work by removing set seating in the office and the hierarchy this entails by offering a variety of spaces (potentially including teleworking) where employees can work depending on the task at hand and outcome desired.

In Australia there are several high profile examples of the adoption of ABW including by Macquarie Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), which boasts the single largest implementation of ABW in the world. As a division of CBA, Bankwest followed its parent company into the ABW world in the first half of 2012 when it consolidated five offices into 13 floors in one new office building, called Bankwest Place, in Perth, Western Australia.

This change in work style involved significant changes in the technology being used to enable employees and has generated a raft of positive outcomes for the bank.

The Why

Tech Research Asia’s ABW research has shown that the top drivers for adopting the work style are real estate-related, including reducing the floor space per employee while increasing the utilisation of space for times of greater and lesser demand. Among those interviewed by TRA, talent management was the fifth most common driver for ABW. However, for Bankwest the ability to attract top employees in the talent-constrained city of Perth (due to the mining boom in the state of Western Australia) was the top driver.

Additional drivers for the bank’s adoption of ABW include a consolidation of offices (5 to 1) and a desire for improved collaboration within teams and across the business. Prior to full deployment in Bankwest Place, the bank ran a year-long pilot during which time it conducted several surveys. The results showed that in general the bank was not making use of the space it had with 30% of desks empty all day and two-thirds of desks empty at any one time.

The How

In Bankwest’s ABW environment there are no offices, no permanently assigned desks, and staff are often encourages work from home; when in the office the 2700 employees are encouraged to sit where they need to, based on their activity. To enable various types of work and interaction, Bankwest Place includes private spaces, meeting spaces, one-on-one spaces, and quieter thinking spaces.

The office is also as paperless as it can be with a reduction of close to 90% of paper usage, a clean desk policy, follow-me printing and centralised multi-function devices (MFDs). In addition to ubiquitous WiFi, Bankwest also standardised on Dell notebooks with docking stations and monitors on each desk. When an employee docks their notebook they will also have their portable phone extension automatically logged in to Cisco video IP phones. They also use the VMware View client virtualisation solution and Good Technology mobile device management (MDM).

Bankwest’s IT department has in parallel to the ABW adoption been pursuing an agile development process. The mixing of the two strategies has generated both benefits and minor challenges. On the one hand, the IT department initially found it difficult to conduct the daily scrum common in agile teams and continue using the same wall to physically display their ideas as they had prior to ABW, which typically demands non-assigned desks and spaces. However, the IT department has succeeded in obtaining an exception for this one daily task. More importantly though, the IT department employees now interact much more regularly, widely and closely with a variety of colleagues in IT and from all parts of the business, thus accelerating efforts to align IT with business goals.

One other initial challenge the team faced was in locating their staff across the 13 floors of Bankwest Place as they have the flexibility to sit where they like on any given day. To overcome this challenge, Bankwest developed an internal application called “Locate myColleague”. The app is being used to speed up collaboration and bring people together, not to revert to the “bums on seats” management approach, which runs counter to the culture of trust, flexibility and outcomes-centred accountability that ABW strives for.

The Outcomes

In a post implementation review Bankwest’s own research on employee perceptions of the ABW environment found that:

  • 74% feel more positively about working for Bankwest

  • 91% enjoy freedom to choose their workspace

  • 84% prefer the new way of working

  • 82% are using less paper

This compares to results from parent company, CBA’s ABW post-implementation review which found:

  • 98% would not go back to old way of working

  • 67% of colleagues believed they are more effective, none felt less effective.

According to Bankwest’s representatives that contributed to this case study, the three things employees like most are:

  • The collaboration areas – allow for informal meetings without having to book a room.

  • The variety of work settings available that cater for different types of activities.

  • The look and feel of the space – inspiring, clean, fresh and open

Bankwest Perceived Outcomes

The results in chart 1 show the level of contribution ABW makes to a common set of business goals on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is an outstanding contribution, and 1 is a very low contribution) as estimated by Bankwest’s IT representative. Each business goal is listed below along with the score and reasoning where provided by Bankwest.

Cost Management Score = 8. On the operational expenditure side ABW is considered an exceptional contribution to achieving cost management goals. However the overall score reduces as ABW is a capex investment – if moving into a new office. Bankwest could have built four floors less of Bankwest Place but chose, instead to reinvest the savings.

Growth Score = 8. ABW is estimated to be increasing productivity and engagement between employees and also with clients which is expected to drive revenue growth. Collaboration and agile development approaches are driving new ways of working.

Risk Management Score =7. Compliance is considered easier with a digital environment as is data and systems security.

Talent Management Score = 9. Bankwest believes there is no other office like Bankwest Place in Perth and thus contributes greatly to its talent management goals.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Score = 10. The Bankwest ABW environment consumes less power, less paper and less waste.

Customer Engagement Score = 7. Bankwest believes it has happier colleagues leading to happier customers and also more word-of-mouth promotion of the company’s ABW site.

Productivity Score = 10. Bankwest believes the introduction of ABW has allowed employees to better focus on the activity at hand and create higher quality results.

Innovation Score = 10. Greater collaboration between employees, and particularly the IT department and general workers, is considered to be contributing greatly to innovation.

The Next Steps for Bankwest

Bankwest is only 12 months into its ABW journey but is now looking at more deeply embracing a customer centric business model and supporting this with agile development processes. Additionally they are now evaluating a bring your own device (BYOD) policy and will upgrade their standard desktop operating environment to Windows 8 from XP.


For Technology and Service Buyers:

If you are considering or piloting ABW consider broadening your focus from the real estate conversation to the bigger value picture, especially around the potential for improvements in process and practice, and culture and people as this is where the real competitive advantage will come from.

Start collecting as many data points as you can now (beyond employee satisfaction and floor space to employee ratios) and build this into the workplace culture to ensure you have an accurate data set to inform future decisions and investments

Focus on embedding continually refreshed ABW goals into employee and senior leadership KPIs to ensure ongoing improvements are made and reversion risks are mitigated. This may require a revisit of organisation-wide goals and metrics used by a team of representative stakeholders