Yes, The Health Benefits of Activity-Based Working Are So Worth It

Activity-based working (ABW) is rooted in the premise that, for employees to work efficiently, they need access to a variety of uniquely designed office areas. 

This means that people are not tied to a particular workstation or cubicle. Instead, different activity areas are available for conducting tasks such as focusing, collaborating, learning, consulting, and socializing.

Facilities commonly found in activity-based workplace designs include community tables or sectionals, breakout areas, meeting rooms, individual work pods or personal phone booths.

ABW offices encourage open collaboration between team members while also affording individual employees privacy whenever they need it.

If you are planning on making some changes to your workplace and adopting a new office layout, the following health benefits of ABW may help you in your decision-making.

Activity-based working offers numerous mental health benefits

The traditional office space was built on the principle that a uniform environment can efficiently host and address the needs of any number of individuals with different roles, personalities, and habits. 

Time has proven this to be a fallacy, of course, as the traditional workplace setup is now known to lead to high levels of stress. In response to this, the open office space was introduced, promising better results.

However, open office spaces force people to interact even when some employees require a certain degree of privacy to finish their tasks. Moreover, the open office space is now viewed as disruptive, noisy, and invasive.

In an ABW office environment, employees have the option to switch workspaces based on the task at hand, as well as their mood. So it works both ways; that is, for people who have no trouble working in busy or noisy environments, and for those who require peace and quiet

This is especially important for those engaged in tasks that require focus and analysis, such as computation, reading, writing, editing, graphic design, etc.

In traditional workplaces, most staff members were confined to cubicles or workstations that discouraged collaboration. On the other hand, open office spaces that were once viewed as the ultimate antithesis of the traditional office made focused work virtually impossible as employees were forced to sit next to each other in one big open area.

ABW efficiently balances both by offering workers the flexibility and freedom to choose from among a variety of workspaces. This freedom and mobility are conducive to healthy brain functioning and beneficial to employee well-being as no one is confined to a desk all day.

Another notable feature of ABW spaces is the integration of biophilic design elements that focus on the importance of natural light and the use of living walls and plants. 

This is why modern ABW offices make generous use of glass to maximize the availability of natural light. Living plants are spread throughout activity-based workspaces to enhance the human-nature connection. Green spaces are known to foster clarity of thought, reduce stress, and enhance creativity. 

The presence of fresh greenery also improves office air quality and promotes a general sense of wellbeing.

The flexibility ABW affords employees helps stimulate creative thinking, improve problem-solving skills, and foster positive feelings of empowerment and control, which are all essential to job satisfaction. These feelings are also critical components of mental health as work-related stress is significantly reduced.

Physical health benefits of activity-based working

May of today's chronic diseases are linked to our sedentary lifestyles. These include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and depression.

For office workers in traditional workplaces, sitting is the order of the day. People have no choice but to finish their workday tied to their desks or confined to their cubicles. The only breaks from sitting are taking the stairs or the elevator and standing and walking around, which usually take up only a few minutes of an entire day.

Offices designed for activity-based working provide a number of areas designed to encourage or facilitate physical movement. These facilities include health inducing height-adjustable desks, balance ball chairs, stationary bicycles, and other similar amenities.

For example, Zenbooth’s phone booths and collaboration pods are facilities you can include in your ABW workplace design. Phone booths provide individual workers the atmosphere they need to accomplish tasks requiring deep concentration, while meeting pods enable staff collaboration in a private setting. 

Additionally, you have the option to have a height-adjustable desk in either of these Zenbooth models.

Some ABW workplaces also provide visible inspiration, encouraging people to incorporate office exercises into their workday through informative posters and videos prominently placed in high-traffic areas.

Technology plays a key role in encouraging mobility, even at work. We now have access to fitness trackers, meditation apps, and simple pedometers designed to support our quest to be physically active and healthy.

Social health benefits

The ABW setup enables employees to relate with people beyond their team, department, or cluster in meaningful ways. 

Due to the decentralized layout of ABW workplaces, employees have many opportunities to move and gain exposure to different people and groups in the company.

Conversation and socialization among individuals belonging to different groups is encouraged. As a result, both professional and casual communication facilitates new ideas and creative thinking. This interdisciplinary and multicultural cross-pollination helps drive innovation and risk-taking, which are both vital to business growth and success.

Developing familiarity with more coworkers beyond their group or department also builds strong bonds between employees, leading to an improved sense of community and ownership within the workplace. These meaningful connections are essential to growing staff morale and in bolstering employees’ emotional health.

Other non-health benefits of activity-based working

The ABW approach to working is a key attribute of agile work environments and has been proven to benefit companies and employees that have adopted it. 

Other benefits of ABW include the following:

  • Better ideas and knowledge sharing: These can be directly attributed to the open communication and collaboration that ABW encourages as people in the company can freely mingle and converse with fellow workers from other disciplines or departments.
  • Freedom and flexibility: The freedom and flexibility that ABW affords employees are inherent qualities of agile workplaces.
  • Higher quality output: Since ABW gives employees the chance to work in focus areas, quiet spaces, and collaborative zones, they have access to opportunities to do their best work. They can concentrate better and produce a higher output in the process.
  • Access to top talent: The best talent is attracted to agile, innovative workplaces. This means that companies that adopt the ABW setup will have an easier time finding top talent.
  • High employee morale: When employees have more choices to do good or better work, they feel free and empowered. These positive feelings, in turn, develop loyalty and goodwill, as well as pride in their role and place of work.
  • Better engagement and retention: Happier and healthier employees are engaged employees, and they don’t leave jobs where they feel valued and empowered.
  • Reduction in absenteeism and tardiness: Employees who are less stressed require fewer sick leaves. Moreover, happy workplaces foster joy and enthusiasm in workers, so workdays are not something people dread; instead, they are opportunities to look forward to.
  • Increased productivity: ABW not only helps improve employee output but it can also help increase productivity. When people feel responsible for their role and output, and know how their work impacts other employees and the company as a whole, they become better and more efficient.
  • Sustainability: Most companies that have adopted ABW practices make better use of their available space. Moreover, ABW design principles have an inherently lower impact on the environment through the reduction of spatial, energy, services, and material requirements.

With agile workplaces, it’s pretty obvious that workers rule the roost.

However, in spite of all the advantages that ABW (and agile office environments in general) offers, some CEOs are hesitant or even unwilling to make a change, preferring to perpetuate the conventional office setup. Of course, this is nothing more than a fear of the unknown.

As more and more studies show the undeniable health benefits of activity-based working, such misgivings will diminish. An increasing number of high-performing organizations have already adopted this style office layout.

Hiring and retaining employees is no longer just about offering high salaries and unlimited overtime opportunities. Giving your employees a sense of autonomy and freedom is equally important, if not more so. ABW is one of the options you can consider for your office if you want to make it more agile and if you wish to experience the above benefits at your company.

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