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HDR Student awarded research grant from the Alastair Swayn Foundation

By Bronwyn Watson

Amila Badungodage has been awarded a research grant from the Alastair Swayn Foundation to support his research project around COVID-19.

With lockdowns easing around the world, organisations are currently trying to envision what the future post-pandemic workplace will look like. And while people are slowly making a transition back into the office, COVID-safe rules are making this a challenging proposition.

There are challenges such as adapting the workplace to the new norm of social distancing and keeping a clean, infection-free environment. There are also wide-ranging concerns over whether there will be less time in the office and more time working from home. And for employees who dislike ‘hot-desking’, where multiple workers share desks, will it mean the death knell for this arrangement? (

These are some of the crucial issues that University of Canberra researcher Amila Badungodage is currently examining as part of a recent research grant from the Alastair Swayn Foundation Badungodage, whose research is titled COVID-19 Health Measures and the Future Direction of Activity Based Workplace (ABW), interprets the current situation as a “trigger for the next workplace evolution”. He says that some of the main features of ABW, such as ‘desk sharing’, and not being territorial about having your own desk, are challenged by the current physical distancing measures.

Badungodage says his research takes a holistic approach in investigating New Ways of Working (NWoW) that facilitate long-term solutions in building resilience in the future against many health-related challenges. “Stakeholders are already actively involved in finding short-term solutions to existing ABW workplaces to be COVID safe,” he says.

“This pandemic is an eye opener for many industries related to workplace strategy such as designers, change managers, business owners, furniture manufacturers, builders, health professionals, engineers, policy makers, and specialists in technology to re-think and revise their long term strategies in catering to the users who need a transformation in their workplaces. This approach should ensure not only the physical well-being of workers, but also their social and psychological well-being.”

As part of his research, Badungodage will be conducing case studies, interviews, and surveys to analyse the future direction of Activity-based working. Besides this current research project, he works full-time as a senior interior designer for Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn (DJAS) Architects in Canberra. He is also doing his PhD part-time in Activity Based Workplace and Change Management in the Faculty of Arts and Design’s School of Design & Built Environment at the University of Canberra under the mentorship of Professor Charles Lemckert and Dr Milica Muminovic.

Badungodage believes that the current pandemic situation will be an opening for many new opportunities in the workplace design industry apart from the many other challenges. He will be analysing these long-term challenges and opportunities in his research. He also anticipates the flexibility of Activity-based working will be a key factor in the future. “Apart from these solutions, workplace designers are demanded to create innovative spatial plans in ensuring employee hygiene while still encouraging collaboration, which is the key in the ‘knowledge-based economy’. We need to think beyond short term solutions and come up with a far more flexible, resilient, smart workplace solution for the future.”