May 11, 2021

Activity-based working - What is ABW?

Introducing the concept of an activity-based workspace and how it can enhance both the employee experience and the productivity of your workforce.

Activity-Based Working - What is it and how does it work?

Activity-based, Flexible, multi-functional, or open? It becomes more and more clear that one size does not fit every work environment, and the variety in office designs can be a challenge to navigate for beginners. In this blog post, we will introduce the concept of an activity-based workspace, how it can enhance both the employee experience and the productivity of your workforce, and if activity-based working is worth considering moving forward.

The concept of an activity-based office

The basic idea of Activity-based working stems from the notion that day-to-day work consists of different types of activities. All of these activities have different resource demands. Both technical and physical equipment needed depends on what work task you are currently performing. For example, client meetings require different resources compared to workshops or programming. Therefore an activity-based workspace needs private spaces, collaborative spaces, meeting spaces, and spaces for more focused work. Sometimes the activity-based workspace might even need phone booths where you can go to have phone meetings. Traditionally, we have thought of an office as constituting desks, meeting rooms, and a lunch area. The idea of an activity-based workplace emphasizes that employees need a wider variety of workspaces that promotes efficiency, curiosity, and innovation.

For example, if you are writing a white paper, you need a good ergonomic desk and screens for your laptop. If your workplace has implemented hybrid work, this type of work can also be done effectively from home. If you are having a brainstorming meeting, you probably need a room or an area with more collaborative spaces where employees can walk around, walls to hang up posts-it and paper, and maybe a table that can be height adjusted. If you are having a workshop meeting with employees joining from a remote location, more emphasis is put on technical solutions, like touchable screens, a video conference set, etc. By creating spaces that are based on the activity instead of only providing two types of spaces, employers can actually stimulate certain types of behaviors and also ensure that employees are motivated to return to the office post-lockdown.  

The benefits of segmenting your office and work environment after activity

The philosophy behind activity-based working revolves around three main environments. The behavioral, the virtual, and the physical. Office spaces are seen to directly affect how we behave at the office and what type of activities we engage in; it also affects how well a company can integrate the physical and virtual world by providing the right tools for online meetings and collaboration, which is a growth factor to take into consideration when more and more people will work both from home and from the office. Our physical environment, like layout and design, also affects our inspiration and well-being. The idea behind an activity-based workplace boils down to the basic fact that our office space needs to promote well-being and engagement.

Activity-based working is said to enable each individual employee to plan their work more effectively. For example, combining working from home with working from the office, using different areas of the office for different tasks so they can be more easily managed. Giving your employees the best tools to succeed, and an environment that stimulates all types of work can greatly enhance employees’ perception of the workplace, and create an activity-based workspace with employee satisfaction leading the way.

What is a social zone, and how do you implement it into an activity-based workplace?

A community space usually follows the pattern that comes from a coffee shop and is shaped to feel energetic and welcoming. If you have ever felt the urge to gather around the coffee machine at work, this is because humans are social animals that crave connection. The best way to achieve this in an open office floor plan is by creating a social zone.

A social zone can come in many forms, but the most important aspect is that it should be centrally located so that you’re looking to increase collaboration, creativity, and casual impromptu meeting opportunities. And for that, a social zone is a great way to do so.

When it comes to creating a social zone, the options are endless. You can go for comfortable couches and armchairs, or even bean bags. It’s important to have a mix of low and high seating so that people have more seating options depending on what they are looking to do. You can even add some greenery to the space. Plants have been proven to boost creativity and productivity, so they’re a great addition to any workplace.

No matter what you decide to put in your social zone, the most important thing is that it should be inviting and comfortable so that people actually feel the creativity and productivity the social zone should entice.

Shared workspaces and social zones are a great way to get people working together on projects. It’s the perfect solution for when you need to brainstorm ideas or work on a project together, or just hang out for a few minutes.

How To Implement Activity-Based Working?

Activity-based working (ABW) offers flexibility. Traditionally employees had only one desk, but with activity-based work, employees can select their place depending on the work they are doing. The concept behind activity-based working is that it leads to increased productivity, creativity, and collaboration as people are able to share ideas more easily.

There are a few things you need to consider when implementing activity-based working at your office:

  1. The type of work your employees will be doing.
  2. The layout of your office space.
  3. The technology you will need to support activity-based working.
  4. The culture of your organization.

When thinking about the type of work your employees will be doing, it is important to consider the activities that they will need to do in order to be productive. For example, if your employees need to spend a lot of time on the phone, a phone booth or two might be a good idea.

Activity-based working is thought to lead to better communication and collaboration, as well as increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

However, it can be challenging to implement successfully. Here are some tips:

  1. Deferred desks and common areas can encourage collaboration and social interaction between employees.
  2. Consider the type of work your employees will be doing. Some roles may need more privacy than others.
  3. Make sure there are plenty of power outlets and storage options available.
  4. Encourage employees to personalize their workspace to suit their needs.

Should we move towards activity-based offices?

After the pandemic, there are a lot of different strategies we can adapt in response to current trends and changing behaviors. An employer can decide to go back to business as usual, where employees work at the office during business hours without exception. We can also adapt a hybrid model, where employees can work both from home and from the office. We can also change to a completely remote way of working, where offices disappear, and we only have our home office. These three options are more complex in real life, and we rarely choose one completely over the other. But what we decide will greatly affect how we plan our office layout.

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