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Activity-Based Working: Why Your Office Must Adapt In 2019

Every organization recognizes that employee productivity and efficiency are instrumental to their bottom line. Studies suggest that the nature of activity-based working (ABW) can improve both of these important metrics as well as:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Usage of office space
  • Operational cost reductions 

So why hasn't your company adopted an ABW floor plan?

Interestingly, the concept of ABW has actually existed for decades. But only in recent years have the advantages of ABW over traditional office settings - and even open office design - been more closely studied. 

We've Been Ignoring Activity-Based Working Environments for Too Long

It may surprise you to find out that the basic idea of activity-based working has been around since the 1970s! Architect Robert Luchetti co-invented these ‘activity settings’ almost 50 years ago. 

Around 1990, Dutch consultant Erik Veldhoen fleshed out the idea. The first organization to take up the approach was the Netherlands insurance giant Interpolis. Years later, Veldhoen would coin the term ‘activity-based learning’, which was popularized after the publishing of his book The Art of Working.

The Advantages of Activity-Based Working

As with any revolutionary advancement, there has been much discussion about whether ABW truly creates a better work environment. While those for and against may argue certain points, there is empirical data gathered through studies and surveys that plainly shows the ways activity-based working can have a positive effect on the workplace. 

A Variety Of Workspace Settings Increase Effectiveness

One of the most in-depth studies was published in 2017 by employee experience research experts at a company called Leesman. 

Surveying 615 workplaces, 11,366 ABW employees and 23,546 control employees, Leesman’s study discovered that there are numerous advantages to the ABW model. 

Employees who have had the opportunity to work in ABW environments reported that multiple workstations within the office allowed them to work more effectively. Those fully adopting the approach displayed much higher-than-average productivity (67%) and pride in their work (86%).

Multiple Settings Benefit Employees With Ultra Complex Work Profiles

The reality of many job positions today dictates that employees are often required to do a number of varied tasks. ABW is beneficial here because, as they move around to complete these tasks, they are continually greeted with settings that support them. 

In a conventional setting, attempting to get 'away-from-the-desk’ work completed can feel unfocused, inefficient and result in a slower pace and decline in work quality.

Companies Will See Added Creativity

The study went on to find that those adopting an ABW work style found the environment better suited to creative thinking. More creative employees mean a workforce that is constantly innovating not only your products and services but also their own workflows. 

A Decreased Reliance on Paper

Activity-based working discourages any excessive use of paper. This may not make ABW ideal for certain environments. But where an over-reliance on paper is not necessary, this results in significant savings for the organization as well as increased information security.

Increased Employee Retention

Global Research firm Gartner found that by 2020, organizations supporting the Choose Your Own Workstyle (CYOW) model will see their employee retention rates increase by over ten percent. 

As employees experience and come to understand the advantages of these more mobile workplaces, being in an environment where they are tethered to a desk will become less and less appealing.

Improved Revenue and Reduced Operational Costs

When implemented correctly, ABW can be extremely beneficial to an organization’s bottom line. British utility company National Grid’s inclusion of ABW saw their operational costs reduced by up to $14m. 

Meanwhile, Australia’s ANZ Banking Group reported an astounding $33M in additional revenue and avoided costs, as well as a 30% decrease in build costs.

The Importance Of Proper ABW Adoption By Employees

In all these studies, employees reported increased productivity, engagement and work satisfaction – but with an important distinction. The employees that gave this type of feedback, and organizations that saw the most gains, did not simply switch to an ABW environment. 

Care was taken that employees were able to properly utilize the new office setting. To achieve this, a few considerations are necessary.

Proper design: An activity-based workplace must be designed to properly support the specific needs of your organization and employees. An ABW design that has excellent results for one office will not necessarily succeed at another. 

To create a successful activity-based workplace, it’s important to consider the work settings that will match your employee’s activities.

Employee Training: Although the office has been set up for activity-based working, the employees have not been utilizing the settings as they were designed to be used. 

This is understandable, as for some it can be quite the adjustment. Training your employees to truly understand how to maximize their new office environment will ensure that you reap the rewards ABW can offer.

Educating Your Employees About The Advantages: Discussions with employees showed that even with training, some remained resistant to the change to ABW. 

Through further discussion, it was discovered that these employees saw activity-based working as a tactic designed solely to save the organization money at the expense of its employees

Explaining that this environment could actually make them more efficient and therefore their job easier was a huge game-changer. Showing them data supporting this was an important piece of the puzzle.

Fit Your Office for Activity-Based Working

In an activity-based working environment, there are multiple work settings available to staff. 

Each of these settings is meant to support different tasks and exhibit specific designs and equipment to that end. 

For example, Zenbooth’s 1-2 person modern phone booth is designed for individuals who may want to make an important phone call or get some work done in privacy and silence. 

It is soundproof and features a work surface and a variety of electrical routings. 

A large, central seating area with access to more chairs may be routinely used for meetings with your entire team and partners/clients when applicable. The sizes of these office meeting booths seat anywhere from 2-6 people. 

Revolutionizing Your Workplace Through ABW

As technology and the world as a whole evolves, so too should your workplace. Activity-based working can dramatically increase your organization's productivity while lowering costs. 

To find out more about Zenbooth, an increasingly popular ABW product, check out our FAQ.

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