May 19th, 2021

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Attempting to meet the needs of every employee and department is an incredible challenge, especially when you factor in the impact of the pandemic.

While your design team may thrive in an open, collaborative space that lets them easily bounce ideas off one another in order to bring great product and brand designs to life, your HR department needs access to private spaces so they're able to talk to employees about sensitive issues.

Your employees have a wide range of needs. Your internal departments also have a wide range of needs. And on top of your responsibility to make sure these needs are met, you need to make sure your office design encourages employees to enjoy working from the office again once it reopens.

If you're wondering how to meet everyone's needs and revive the magic of the office post-COVID, consider looking into activity-based working.

Activity based working benefits

Your office design and strategy need to allow your workforce to be the most efficient, effective, and engaged at their jobs. An activity based working model is one way to make that dream a reality.

What is activity based work (ABW)?

Activity based working (ABW) simply means there are no assigned desks or workstations. An ABW environment is a flexible workspace, which is a must-have for companies these days.

Rather than being confined to a desk, ABW allows your employees to choose how, where, and when they work, which enables them to be more effective at their jobs and makes your company as a whole more effective. 

Offering every type of employee and department the right work settings and technology accommodates every task, project, and activity in your office while creating a more modern, mobile working environment that’s needed for today’s tech-savvy employees.

And after working remotely for a year, people are really looking forward to collaborating in person again. Maybe that's why, according to a recent CBRE study, 73% of companies said they plan to support hybrid work after the pandemic.

The activity based work environment

Having a variety of workstations — open tables, glass-wall conference rooms, couches, chairs, standing desks, etc. — that employees can use for meetings and brainstorming sessions also mean there’s better team collaboration. When your employees can — and actually want to — get together to collaborate and share ideas, it helps drive innovation within your company. And more innovative ideas help you stay ahead of the competition.

We all know a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to our health. Activity based working means less sitting because you’re not confined to sitting at one desk where the only time you get up is to eat lunch and use the restroom. As you get up and move around more during the workday, more blood pumps to your brain, which increases your concentration and engagement.

When companies support different types of behavior and activity in the office – with the right environment and tools – productivity and efficiency increase, as well as office morale.

Here's some food for thought: Having an assigned desk is less important for productivity and wellbeing than other factors including the layout of the space allowing employees to interact easily and having the ability to personalize and adjust the space. 

A productive, successful office with happy employees and the latest tools is the kind of office employees want to work at. So in that way, activity based working will also help you attract and retain employees.

How to transition to activity based working

If you’re going to successfully transition from a fixed workstation to activity based working, there are a handful of things you need to do.

First, figure out if it's relevant to your company. Activity based working isn’t for every organization. It works best for mobile workforces, which could be your entire company or just one or two of your departments.

Next, you need to collect the necessary data: how your company currently works, how office space is being used, if spaces are over- or under-utilized, how many employees will work remotely or have flexible schedules, etc.

You should also review your company goals. Conduct culture and IT audits. Send out a staff survey to learn what’s currently working for employees and what’s not going to work from employees who plan to return to the office. 

Look at your financials. Compare what your office and office space are costing you now versus what the costs associated with a flexible, shared space would cost you, such as furniture and equipment costs and cost per employee. Some companies who already implemented activity based working before the pandemic saw a 20-30% drop in real estate costs.

A lot depends on your facilities managers. In an ABW environment, office space has to support different activities, i.e. ad-hoc collaboration, project work, and information sharing.

Along with ensuring that the physical and virtual collaborative environments are working, a company's focus tends to shift to behavior. For ABW to be successful, this thinking has to start at the top, with the company executives. Once they have a clear vision of this new workspace design, they can tell the rest of your office why the change is happening and how it’s going to directly affect and benefit each employee.

They’ll also need support from the HR and IT departments, to provide the necessary training and tools to support the transition to an activity based working model.

Once you remove any misunderstandings that employees have about new ways of working, if you can create awareness and build desire within each employee, it’s going to be a much smoother transition.

Is activity based working right for your office?

Activity based working isn’t right for everyone. If everything we’ve told you sounds great but you’re still unsure if you should transition to this working environment, here are five ways to know if your office is ready for an ABW model.

  1. You’re not getting the most out of your employees and departments.
  2. You’re about to move to a new location or open a new office.
  3. You have numerous remote workers and employees who spend a majority of their time off-site, traveling and meeting with clients and/or have a work-from-home policy. (During normal business hours, only 60-70% of office workspaces are utilized.)
  4. You’re in need of an environment that increases employee creativity.
  5. You’re in a competitive industry and are looking to recruit and retain the best new talent.

When it's done right, activity based working empowers your employees with trust, technology, and various types of working environments. When they can move freely about their work environment while remaining connected, they're bound to be more productive, both individually and as a team.

So if you’re debating whether or not the transition is for you, ask yourself and your employees this: Would you rather have a desk with your name on it, work solely from home, or have the freedom of choice?

Activity based working Post-COVID

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 last Spring, the future of the corporate office has been questioned, debated, and scrutinized from every angle.

What is the purpose of the office? Will employees work from home forever? Are companies going to increase the number of offices and decrease their size — moving employees into smaller spaces in lieu of a large corporate HQ? What does 'flexible' actually mean?

There are a lot of questions surrounding the return to offices and how to get your office design and strategy right for the post-pandemic workforce. Unless you have an endless budget and unlimited space, finding the perfect office design to address every employee is an extremely tall order — especially at a time as challenging as this.

If you're unsure how to start transitioning to activity based working model, schedule a demo to see how our software can help make it easy.

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