Explained: The Pros and Cons of Activity Based Working

Many organizations have long held the belief that the open office space plays a key role in motivating employee collaboration, which in the process breeds new ideas and innovations.

For this reason, many workplaces have sacrificed employees’ privacy in a bid to boost productivity and lower operating costs. 

However, a recent Harvard study has put these claims to rest by proving that the open office design actually reduces employee collaboration, which in turn slows output. According to the study, face-to-face interactions between employees in an open office setting went down by about 70%.

The traditional workplace setting, where an employee slaves all day in a designated office workstation, is quickly giving way to more versatile and favorable arrangements. The modern employee wants flexibility and privacy above all else.

So, if the open office design isn’t cutting it, what is the alternative?

Well, different organizations take various approaches when coming up with flexible workplace layouts. One of the more popular designs currently appearing in many workplaces is the activity-based working environment (ABW). Here, we break down the pros and cons of ABW. 

What is Activity-Based Working?

In the ABW model, none of the employees own or are assigned to a specific workstation. Instead, the workplace is designed for particular tasks. 

This layout allows employees to choose from a variety of workspaces depending on the job that they are doing. The best way to think of an activity-based workplace is as an on-demand office – the employees get what they need when they need it.

 For instance, you can have a collaboration area, meeting place, relaxation area, and a private section for personal or focus-intensive work. 

The beauty of ABW is that all these different furniture ideas can be integrated into the open office layout at a reasonable expense, without reconfiguring the DNA of the workplace.

Implementing an Activity-Based Office Design

Switching to an activity-based design may require some serious re-evaluation of your entire office space, and more importantly, adapting your employees to the new setting. 

Here are some useful tips and considerations that you need to make when implementing an activity-based layout.

Work with Your Space

You may need to come up with creative ways of implementing the already existing floor space into a versatile office. Depending on the number of employees and the nature of their jobs, you may have to invest in redesigning some architectural features and purchasing new office furniture to house everything you need. 

Begin by identifying the critical spaces that you need to have, and desig each of them with unique features that make it useful to the employees. For instance, furnish the rest area with comfortable couches and ensure there is a refreshing and cozy atmosphere. 

Also, the private space needs to be isolated from noise, distractions, and disturbances from the rest of the workplace.

Educate Your Employees

ABW design should promote a sense of community within the office. There is definitely going to be a lot of space and time-sharing on a day-to-day basis. 

So, you need to educate your employees on the importance of having a sort of shared space experience, especially if you are switching from some of the more personalized office settings such as cubicles where every employee "owns" a workspace. 

The important thing is to get rid of the “me” attitude, which may make an employee feel entitled. 

Consider Office Booths

Office booths fit right in with the activity-based model if you're looking to make economical use of your floor space without making costly structural adjustments to the building. 

Instead of boarding up sections of the office to create meeting spaces, which might be both expensive and wasteful, why not invest in elegantly designed and constructed Zenbooths?

Zenbooths allow you to add professionally styled conference rooms, private booths, and huddle rooms on any part of your office space without having to pay for a construction project. 

The booths come essential features for the modern office worker, including air conditioning, connectivity, and charging ports. 

The Pros of ABW Offices

Let’s take a look at some of the most attractive benefits of adopting an activity-based workplace design.

  • Boosts Engagement and Productivity

Employees feel more empowered and well-taken care of, if they have a sense of control and a bit of flexibility in the workplace. In an ABW setting, an employee can find a suitable space to carry out any activity, be it a phone call, group discussion, high-intensity work, or even make and eat a meal and relax. 

This is what has been missing in the traditional office layout, where each employee remains glued to one spot from nine to five. Also, the ABW system boosts collaboration as employees interact in the various workspaces.

  • Economic Use of Office Space

Unlike in a traditional open office design and cubical system, the activity-driven design makes more economical use of the available space. Organizations have always been forced to invest in desks, furniture, and equipment for every single employee; with ABW, that's not necessarily the case. 

Without designated workstations, you can encourage your employees to even bring their own equipment from home – laptops, tablets, and the like. This does away with redundant office furniture and equipment, not only saving on space but also running costs.

  • Helps with Employee Retention

Turnover rate is a major concern in the modern workplace. Adopting an ABW office might help your organization demonstrate its commitment to prioritizing the needs of its employees. It may also show that you have gone out of your way to modernize your workplace to better suit the flexibility needs of a progressive office. 

Some degree of flexibility often helps employees feel committed to their work and is considered a good quality on the employer’s part.

  • Builds Morale and Teamwork

The ABW model gives each employee the power of choice when making decisions in the workplace, for instance, choosing what to do, where to sit, and whom to interact with physically. 

This level of freedom inspires morale among the employees and motivates team building and teamwork. Every employer knows that these are key factors that directly influence productivity.

Cons of ABW Workspaces

Despite the many benefits of the ABW office model, it does come with a few drawbacks.

  • Employees Resistance to Change

Switching to a new office layout is often a challenge for many organizations since some prefer the former design. This problem is all about familiarity; people often fear or resist what they don't know and understand. 

Train your staff members before and after the transition to help them come to terms with the changes. It would also help to involve the employees in the transition process so that the final layout works in their favor.

  • Occupancy Rules

Occupancy can become a problem in certain workspaces during peak hours. For instance, the kitchen areas might get overpopulated during mid-day hours, and the lounge may not accommodate everyone during the late afternoons. 

Create an occupancy system that prevents the overlapping and spacing hogging problem. You may have to implement some ground rules in problematic areas, such as the kitchen, privacy booths, huddle rooms, and lounge.

  • Personal Storage and Insecurity

Since no employee has a designated workstation, storing personal items such as phones, personal effects, and documents may become an issue. Everyone can’t just go around carrying all their stuff, and items can't just be kept on tabletops for security reasons. 

An excellent solution to this problem is a locker or personal storage system. This is something similar to the gym's locker system, where everyone can store their belongings securely in a locked box all day.

Most of the activity-based workplace design limitations have simple solutions that just need a bit of ingenuity and creativity to solve. 

Plus, the benefits of ABW vastly outweigh its disadvantages, especially when you consider the boost in productivity and the cost savings. The activity-based workplace model may not be the only solution to the open office plan, but it's a great alternative.

Are you finally convinced to implement the activity-based office model in your workplace? If you are, get in touch with us and learn how we can help turn your open office space into a more flexible and productive workplace with our uniquely built Zenbooths.

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