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What is activity-based work and how do you facilitate it?

Activity-based work (ABW) is a modern concept and growing trend which is based on the elimination of dedicated desks and assigned workstations in favour of diverse work settings which can be used by anybody, at any time, according to task or requirement.

Research from experts in workplace effectiveness, Leesman, revealed that 45% of employees identify more than 11 activities that make up a significant part of their role. Different activities call for different resources, which is exactly what ABW environments aim to support through office design, technology and furniture – but these things only work with the right company culture.

What is activity-based work and how do you design an activity-based office?

The right design to limit resistance

When designing an activity-based working environment, you will need to run a full audit of the space to establish how it will perform best. By its very nature, there isn’t one exclusive solution on how to design an activity-based office as it all comes down to unique requirement.

However, some essential things to consider in general include:

  • Who still needs a more traditional assigned workspace?
  • Could you swap all, or some, workstations for hot desking facilities?
  • What opportunities are there to encourage more collaboration?
  • Is there enough privacy?

What is activity-based work and how do you design an activity-based office?

Take advantage of collaborative technology

While a strong design scheme will provide a solid foundation to work from, there is also a plethora of technology products which can help cater for activity-based working.

Technology which facilitates connectivity, mutual participation, collaboration and improved communication are all key in this type of environment. Some products we would recommend are:

What is activity-based work and how do you design an activity-based office?

Modern office furniture designed for flexibility

When it comes to choosing furniture which will best facilitate an activity-based work environment, diversity and flexibility are vital. Here are some of our top suggestions:

  • Power integrated furniture to ensure seamless connectivity throughout the space.
  • Individual storage lockers to limit clutter and offer adaptable security for staff.
  • Modular furniture which is easily reconfigured and moved around the space for touchdown work, impromptu discussions and multifunctionality.
  • Ergonomic seating such as the Steelcase Gesture chair that intuitively adapts to a variety of postures and device usage.
  • Soft seating for social spaces, relaxation zones and casual collaboration settings.
  • Acoustic solutions to combat any noise distractions and disruption
  • Focus pods which staff can use for complete privacy or focused concentration

What is activity-based work and how do you design an activity-based office?

Adopt the right attitude towards activity-based work

As well as providing all of the right furniture, technology and design elements, you also need to consider company culture and attitudes towards ABW.

According to Leeman’s report, more than 70% of employees in activity-based working environments are still performing tasks at one assigned workstation.

Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO offers his thoughts on some potential reasons for this resistance…

What is activity-based work and how do you design an activity-based office?

“This may be because the nature of their role doesn’t require them to work in a mobile way; or it could be because the physical, virtual and cultural infrastructure does not actively encourage the appropriate mobility behaviour.

“[…] employers must then provide the necessary ‘support systems’ if their employees are to reap any benefit from such a transition.”

In order to provide these support systems and make using ABW facilities an effective process for those employees whom it benefits, you need to foster a culture of trust, flexibility and evolution. Should you choose to update your furniture and office design to make the transition into an activity-based workspace, you’ll need the attitude and workplace infrastructure to match.

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