The How, What, And Why Of Activity-Based Working

How and why activity-based workplaces empower individuals and increase productivity.
  • Activity-based working is a style of workplace design that empowers individuals through choice.
  • It’s a flexible environment with a variety of settings that supports different working activities and purposes.
  • Various elements are needed to create an activity-based work environment including shared workspaces, break-out areas, quiet and private spaces, and technology.

Robin, a workplace software supplier, defines activity-based work as “the practice of providing employees with a choice of office settings for a variety of tasks and activities throughout the workday.”

In other words, activity-based work is about empowering individuals with choice in the workplace. Activity-based work environments enable agile working practices. Robin defines agile working as “the practice of creating a flexible and productive environment by providing employees with a variety of settings that they can move through quickly and easily in order to support an activity-based environment.”

Again, it all boils down to choice.

The need to offer agile working environments is a response to current workplace trends. Professionals are no longer glued to their desks, which means that most office space is being underutilized. This has given rise to open-plan work environments, and even though these have received some backlash recently, they are an effective tool in getting more people to use a designated space. Companies no longer needed to offer a 1:1 desk ratio per employee.

However, the shared workspace environment doesn’t work if there is no choice.

Some activities require specific settings; privacy, access to whiteboards, access to technology, etc. One of the main reasons why open-plan environments received so much backlash is because many companies implemented this environment without an environment to counter-balance it. Though it increased space utilization, it didn’t offer choice.

Since activity-based work environments require that people have choice, creating such an environment requires that you create alternative environments within your workspace walls. Think of it as creating different biotopes within your workplace habitat. You have to support different “species” of workers: those that need private areas to hold calls, those that need creative spaces to help them brainstorm, those that need comfortable seating for low-focus but long tasks or impromptu meetings, etc.

To transform your workplace into an activity-based work environment you need to begin by analyzing your space layout. Does it allow for changes in certain areas or corners? Which areas could be best transformed into quiet or lounging zones?

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    Then, you need to consider the type of worker that uses your space. If the majority of workers require privacy, then you need to consider offering a significant amount of private space. If the majority of them work in creative fields, then you need to provide them with work environments that enable and facilitate creativity.

    Elements Needed to Create an Activity-Based Work Environment

    Shared Workspace Areas

    Open-plan environments can double as touchdown spaces and are ideal for workers that don’t come in to the workplace everyday or who tend to be in and out of the office throughout the day.  They are also useful for teams when they are working on a specific project and need a place to gather. These spaces also encourage organic collaboration and interaction.

    You might also like: “How To Hack the Open Office

    Quiet and Private Spaces

    These areas are enabled individuals to carry out high-focus and high-concentration tasks. They are also great for professionals handling sensitive information or who tend to get easily distracted by others. Quiet areas can also help individuals relax and think by eliminating noise and unwanted interruptions. This area should be significantly removed from the shared work environment or soundproofed.

    Break out and Lounge Areas

    These areas should have casual and comfortable seating. They can be the social areas of your workspace, where casual conversations take place, where people sit down to wind-down or bounce ideas off one another, and so on. They should be located near meeting areas as they can serve as a quick follow-up place for meeting attendees. These are multi-purpose areas that can double as meeting space, brainstorming areas, waiting areas, etc.

    Meeting Areas

    All workplaces need to have meeting areas, large and small. Meeting rooms should support meetings from two people up to 15 or 20. They need to be equipped with a table, comfortable chairs, collaboration board, technology, and WiFi.

    Technology and Resources

    An agile workplace is one that will enable professionals to fulfill tasks effectively and efficiently. This requires that the space has the necessary resources and technology to support different types of work activities and tasks. Think about whiteboards and markers, printers, outlets, WiFi, storage, and audio-visual technology, among others.

    Suggested reading: “The Future of Work: The Rise of the Digital Workplace

    Activity-based work environments improve productivity and client/employee attraction and retention. They increase collaboration and space utilization and reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

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