Everything You Need to Know About Activity-Based Working

Everything You Need to Know About Activity-Based Working

While employees are excited to return to the office, they do expect their office experience to be different from before. However, other employees see remote work can give them more benefits. 


As a result, employers now need to create and redesign their office spaces deliberately. There are various factors to account for, such as working styles and preferences in environments that ultimately affect productivity.



What’s the Biggest Problem with the Open Office Layout?


What’s the Biggest Problem with the Open Office Layout infographic


While the open office was initially promised to be the “cure” to cubicle farms, the results are counter-intuitive. 


Many studies reported that interaction decreases in the open workspace without boundaries and when employees are forced to interact. The result is a drastic spike in turnover rates and lower productivity.  


Open offices can easily pose many problems for employees, such as: 


1: Lack of Privacy


The lack of privacy is the biggest concern with the open office layout. Not only does it negatively affect performance, but also leads to a lack of security. This is especially concerning for businesses that handle confidential client information.


2: Distractions and Over-stimulation


Different people have different work styles and methods, and many often need silence to complete their tasks. Open offices often offer little to no barriers to filter out visual and auditory distractions from all sides.   


3: Noise


Everyday office functions like collaborating with coworkers are made more difficult by noise pollution. The same can be said for things like phone calls, video conferences, or even important in-person conversations.


4: Higher health risks


With the post-pandemic landscape comes a re-evaluation of the current work environment.  Open offices have little to no barriers against germs and viruses, meaning more employees are likely to be infected. 



What is Activity-Based Working?


What is Activity-Based Working


Today’s workspaces should be planned and designed with flexibility in mind. Offices need to support diverse tasks employees may need to perform in line with the company’s changing needs. Activity-based working is one potential solution.  


At its core, activity-based working is about creating an environment where employees get to choose where and how they work. The office is no longer static, but a holistic environment where employees can move to different areas as needed. 


An activity-based environment is similar to a hybrid workplace, with many sections serving different functions. While not every company should have an activity-based workspace, it can provide significant benefits, such as:


  • Reduced Real Estate Costs – Companies are often pressured to maximize real estate investments as much as possible. With activity-based working, entire areas of a building can be a workspace instead of having smaller impractical spaces. 
  • Livelier Office Environments – Being able to choose their work environment encourages employees to alternate between open and closed spaces. As a result, employee interaction and socializing increases. 
  • Higher Recruitment and Retention – Employees with the option to choose where and how they work tend to be more highly engaged. The right combination of amenities and services in any workplace environment can greatly boost morale. 
  • Better Work Relationships – It’s easier for employees to build relationships with co-workers when they’re not sitting at the same desk every day. With an activity-based work environment, employees can talk to other people outside their respective departments.

What Makes an Activity-Based Workspace?


What Makes an Activity-Based Workspace infographic


While an activity-based environment has many similarities to an open office, these two are not the same. The former places an emphasis on connecting activities to the environment best suited for them. 


There are a few things that make these interior layouts work, such as:


Effective Design


The goal of an activity-based workspace is to create different spaces under one roof where employees can work without being interrupted. This extends not just to the layout and the furniture, but also to the different sections. 


For example, certain spaces can be more open to supporting collaborative projects among creative departments. Meanwhile, other spaces can be sectioned off for team or client meetings. 




In an activity-based workspace, employees are mindful of others’ needs, especially when they need to work in silence. Phones are put on silent and employees clean up after themselves when their tasks are complete.


These work environments rely on trust and autonomy among team members to get the job done. The addition of helpful signage can serve as a helpful reminder to ensure this kind of trust.  




Work environments should be conducive to productivity. Adding cues in activity spaces allows employees to navigate different sections, such as open and closed spaces. 


Different people feel comfortable with different elements, and the same goes for employees. Including these in various sections increases the choices employees can make in choosing where they want to work. 




Perhaps the most important factor in an activity-based work environment is the technology that supports it. After all, designing agile environments means sectioning specific areas for certain uses. 


Tools like room reservation software or scheduling apps perform more than one function to address different challenges. Not only do they allow designated access to certain spaces, but they also ensure that these spaces are properly utilized. 



What are the Examples of an Activity-Based Working Environment?


What are the Examples of an Activity-Based Working Environment


There are plenty of design ideas and examples that provide employees with choices to match their needs. On top of the standard workstations and conference rooms, it’s possible to add the following: 


  • Huddle Rooms – Employees sometimes need to hold small meetings, whether impromptu or scheduled. Huddle rooms meant for one person or a small group can come equipped with audio, video, and even display software
  • Lounge Areas – Lounge areas can add a certain ambiance similar to local coffee shops. They serve as great places for quick huddles, ad-hoc meetings, or even focus time for small teams. 
  • Libraries – Libraries are a more open alternative to one-person sections meant for calls and virtual meetings. They can be a great place to escape noise while still being surrounded by co-workers or like-minded individuals. 
  • Phone Booth – Employees sometimes need to take phone and video calls privately or quietly. “Phone booth” sections serve as specific sections for these reasons as well as for digital meetings. 

Is Activity-Based Working Suited for You?


Every organization has its unique challenges that require unique solutions. Some may have people who need to concentrate on their work, while others need regular meetings and short discussions. 


Different work activities are present within any one organization, too. Entire departments may need to collaborate regularly, while others have work that requires full concentration. 


Ultimately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The best is one that accounts for the various needs of employees. Depending on the nature of their work, they may need a closed or an open workspace to perform optimally. 





Office managers and leaders are responsible for their employees’ needs. To ensure a workplace that can adapt to changing needs, it’s important to empower and place trust in employees.


This all starts with a change in mindset. With open offices and traditional workspace no longer the way to go, activity-based environments provide a balance between the two. Supporting these dynamic workplaces takes significant investment, but the rewards are well worth it. 

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