Activity Based Working: What You Need To Know To Implement it
We’ve explored the concepts behind flexible workspaces and how innovation can transform a workspace into something malleable. In many industries, a job doesn’t stay the same from start to finish. There are different phases: design, creation, delivery, and more.
Consider product-building: the project comes from an idea that gets drawn up into a design. The design is then worked, refined, and then built. During the building process, the design or solution is overseen as it gets constructed or implemented.
Would the same workspace be effective throughout every step of the project? Or would different zones or configurations help spur innovation, thoughtfulness, and comprehension?
What is activity-based working?
Bring in activity-based working. The key to activity-based working, or ABW, is that the work environment accommodates the individual or team’s needs. Whether it’s your office desk, a meeting room, or even your home office.
For example, have a look at Vasakronan’s headquarters. The design is considered Sweden’s “foremost activity-based workplace[s].”
“The goal [was] to create a dynamic workplace where employees do not have a fixed, individual workplace but instead given the chance to do their work wherever they are in the room.”
To have opportunities for ABW, the office space must have different types of areas and zones, or else flexible areas and zones. One area might host standard desks with computers and cubicles. Another might offer an enormous touchscreen and a whiteboard wall. Another space could hold a lounge where teammates can round-circle their ideas. And yet another opportunity is to allow employees to work from home or any other location.
To foster ABW, the workspace needs to offer different work environments that are designed to not only meet the needs of the teams but also the projects and project stages. Rather than designing activities to fit rooms, the rooms are designed to fit the activities.
The concept of making a room to suit an activity isn’t a new concept. In fact, board rooms are specifically designed to support board meetings; huddle rooms are designed to host smaller huddle meetings.
However, true ABW is where the concept gets blown-up; expanded until it encompasses the whole office space. Desks are not designated and spaces are not restricted. Instead, the workspaces are a book-in-advance deal with solutions such as meeting room booking systems and desk booking solutions.
One of the earliest concepts of a modern office came from Jay Chiat, an American advertising specialist prominent in the late 1900s. In 1995, Jay recognized the need to restructure and redesign his office space for his own employees. He noted the limitations of cubicles and private offices had on the company. He instead looked to college campuses for inspiration, opening the workspace to foster unexpected events and interactions.
Unfortunately, Chiat tried too hard to make his new concept work with his existing office furniture and layout. What he failed to achieve is the concept of an “indoor city” where employees felt unbound from the normal conventions of the old-fashioned office.
Since Chiat’s unsuccessful attempt, office spaces have evolved. Office life has transitioned from tall, private cubicles set in systematic lines to half-walled cubicles that allow employees to make eye contact and converse. From half-wall cubicles, offices have moved to desk sharing and other flexible workspace concepts.
In the past year, the understanding of what a workplace needs to look like got stripped down to its bare bones. And this presents the perfect opportunity to re-invent your workplace and embrace the benefits of ABW.
How it’s impacting the workplace
Most companies who have implemented ABW have seen incredible benefits that have transformed the company as a whole. A study by Leesman strongly suggests activity-based workspaces have “increased staff collaboration, productivity, pride, and effectiveness.”
Open workspaces offer more opportunities for serendipitous meetups. Employees who hadn’t even considered working as a team or hadn’t had one-on-one opportunities end up meeting in unlikely places. Employees become engaged with each other. Department cliques fade and the company becomes a wholesome workspace that works unified rather than in departments.
Many employees relax when their workspace feels like home. Therefore, an activity-based workspace helps employees feel free to change their settings and environment throughout the day, just as they would at home. Employees who are more comfortable at their jobs typically stay with the company longer, rather than looking for greener grass in another company.
Where ABW really shines is its capitalization on company real estate. Rather than reserving desks and offices for employees who would usually rather work wherever they please, companies can set up desk sharing for the desks they have. They no longer need to reserve floorspace for employees they “might” hire in the near future. Instead, the new employees can fit right in with the rest of the activity-based workers by booking and showing up at their desk on some days and working remotely or in any other space on other days.
The future of activity-based working
Do ABW environments actually help? Usually yes, but only if they’re strategically implemented and only for compatible businesses. An additional factor is also considering the safety of those environments – make sure that everything can get disinfected, booked, and that there’s a way of contact tracing.
Like any work environment, an activity-based workspace needs planning and thought to be implemented successfully. Employees also need to be guided through transitions. Some employees have worked in traditional office spaces for most of their lives, while some others will always prefer the isolation of designated cubicles and meeting rooms. Supporting these individuals and making sure they have options they’re comfortable with will help an activity-based workspace succeed.
It’s important to iron out the technicalities of an activity-based workspace. For example, if there are shared desks, make sure to have a reliable desk booking solution in place. A solid meeting room booking system would also help with space reservations and room bookings. Joan 6 is great for flexible workspaces where people can check the availability of a room or space before settling down for a meeting or a quiet session. Additionally, Joan Desk Booking app is fantastic for booking desks and contact tracing. Ensuring a safe activity-based work environment.