The ‘coming of age’ of activity-based-working

We are living in an on-demand culture and employees have been asking for more flexibility in the workspace for some time. As we start to emerge from the COVID lockdowns of 2020/21 and as organisations contemplate their next moves, this might be the time to consider the benefits of an ABW solution.

Activity based working [ABW] is a workstyle where the employee is empowered to work fluidly in an environment that supports working in differing settings that, in turn, support the task at hand at varying points of the day.

These environments typically don’t feature any form of fixed residential desking, instead there are place settings that support a variety of activities, personal characteristics and requirements and by allowing the individual to work as they wish, automatically boost engagement and productivity.

It isn’t just a case of dropping in some soft seating and decent coffee though; for the environment to work effectively, you need a well-designed and well-considered space utilising a variety of structures, zones, technology and furniture to fully support the model.

Above all, it relies on a workplace culture of trust and a joint sense of purpose.

This is where an ABW space will best serve the organisation in providing a physical workspace that supports the workstyle and aligns with the organisation’s DNA. When all three elements are aligned, these spaces positively buzz and deliver a fantastic work experience.

These types of ABW solutions have evolved at pace over the last 10-15 years as advances in technology have de-coupled employees from fixed desk positions.

As we exit a global ‘working-from-home’ experiment, now would be a good time to consider the extended benefits of adopting an ABW model and incorporating it into a wider reaching flexible working solution that meets the expectations of an evolved workforce within a complex business climate.  

Consider the near future, where actively engaged employers adopt a flexible working approach, allowing employees to work from home, the office, a localised serviced office or even the good old coffee shop. These are organisations that measure their staff by performance, not attendance, and all parties are fully engaged. 

This flexible approach, empowers the individual by allowing them to choose how, where and when they want to work. After four seasons of working at home, most people now have a fair opinion on how they feel about various elements of working from home, and the consensus seems to be a desire for choice and flexibility with a hybrid combination of part working from home, part from an office and part elsewhere. The secret to this lies in allowing the individual to choose whilst ensuring they have the technology in place to support it fully.

Ultimately, working from home 5 days a week isn’t going to suit everyone, just as a 5-day stint in the office isn’t going to be favoured either. However, a combined week where you choose where to work based on the best place/environment for a) a certain type of work ranging from focussed, individual tasks to collaborative team activities and b) the individual’s need or lifestyle choice.

With this workstyle you are effectively extending the ABW model outside the traditional office space and into your overall working day, the ABW definition remains the same but it is now more than just space and place. 

In essence, work is an activity, not a place.

To capitalise on this way of working, it would be useful to redefine the office, breakaway from the traditional model and envisage the office of the future as a ‘hotel office’.  A destination that is still the physical presence of an organisation but now works in a more fluid, dynamic and employee centric way.

Whilst this approach offers benefits to employees and employers alike, the key benefits for the employer are: 

  1. Reduced Real Estate costs, smaller floorplates with less built structure
  2. Increased employee engagement and retention
  3. Increased productivity
  4. Ability to attract talent from further afield with less reliance on local commuting
  5. Ability to introduce your Clients to use the same space should you desire, extending the ‘hotel’ concept
  6. Minimise sickness/absence by fostering a healthier/happier workforce

In summary, the ABW model is an attractive proposition for organisations looking to remain competitive in a climate where disruption is the norm (whether it’s another pandemic, a natural disaster or social unrest); the more agile we are, the more resilient we will be. To add to this, talent is becoming more global and mobile than ever, and employers who offer flexibility, choice and a sense of purpose will ultimately attract the best talent. 
Whilst there is a nervousness around returning to work which should gradually reduce over the coming period, an employer who demands their staff return to the office is likely to struggle, however by adopting new working practises and building an environment that they want to come back to, it should be a lot easier when the time comes for re-opening.

Let us know how we can help you adapt your working environment to support a successful activity-based-working approach.