Published: 15 Mar 2022
Updated: 23 Feb 2024
Category: Case Study

Activity-based Working (ABW): What Is It & How Can You Implement It?


Every company is looking for ways to improve the motivation and productivity of their employees.

You may have heard about lots of different working models that promise to achieve this, but how are you supposed to know which one works the best for you?

One of the most popular – and seemingly most effective – options is activity-based working (ABW). 

In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about ABW — what it is, its benefits, and how companies can create a workplace that facilitates this style of working.


What is activity-based work? 

Activity-based working (ABW) or an activity-based workspace is the middle ground between assigned desks and communal desks.

In activity-based workspace design, different office areas are reserved according to specific work tasks and social scenarios, for example, quiet space for focused work, private phone booths for calls, conference rooms for group meetings, and creative spaces for informal conversations. This employee-centred workspace design emphasises on how the work is completed, but not where it is completed. 

Instead of assigning employees a dedicated workstation, companies provide employees with access to a variety of space options according to different types of work. Employees can direct their own work and freely decide where to work in the office. Giving employees the ability to choose where they work can result in higher productivity and improve overall employee satisfaction. 


What are the benefits of activity-based working?

There are many benefits that come with activity-based working, including:

●    More efficient use of office space
●    Enhance communication and knowledge exchange between employees
●    Attract and retain top talents 
●    Minimise costs
●    Increase concentration
●    Increase productivity
●    More flexibility


Differences between Activity-Based Working (ABW) and Traditional Working Models

It is worth noting the difference between Activity-based working (AMW) and Traditional working models. More specifically, how the two interplay and contrast in the workplace. 

•    Workspace Layout: Traditional models often feature fixed, assigned seating, whereas activity-based working provides a variety of spaces for different work-related activities.

•    Employee Autonomy: In traditional settings, employees have less autonomy and control over their work environment, while activity-based working offers flexibility, more freedom and choice, thereby enhancing employee satisfaction and efficiency.

•    Technology Integration: Activity-based working leverages modern technology to facilitate mobility and flexibility, a step ahead of the often stationary Tech setups in more traditional models. 

•    Cultural Shift: Activity-based working fosters a more egalitarian and collaborative environment, moving away from the hierarchical and status-based system prevalent in traditional offices.


How to implement ABW? 

Implementing an ABW environment is simple when you follow these steps:

1. Start by understanding the why

The discovery stage is an important time when it comes to implementing activity-based design into your working space.

In order to properly implement ABW into your workplace, you should understand the opportunities that it poses to your business, and start to come up with some goals about what you hope to achieve by implementing it. 

Having goals and aspirations will make it far easier when it comes to planning and designing your office space. You have something to work towards and an end destination in mind.

2. Observe the needs of your employees

An activity-based working office is one that prioritises the needs of the employee, so take time to observe them before drawing up any plans.

Try to identify the hurdles that cause inconvenience to your staff in their day-to-day work life and focus on solving them in your new office plan.

3. Create detailed plans throughout the process

Failing to plan is planning to fail so make sure to plan thoroughly when driving the initiative. 

Alongside thinking about the needs of your employees, you must also consider a range of other factors including budget, functionality, office design, procurement, installation, and delivery times.

4. Get your employees involved

Like any change in the workplace, employee buy-in is crucial for everything to go according to plan.

Engage your employees in conversations about the new office changes. Explain the purpose of the change and how it will affect them, it is also an opportunity for you to address their concerns before making permanent changes.


Following ABW best practices

An ABW design best complements work models such as agile work, flexible work, and hybrid work. Different flexible work options can be utilised in and out of the office, from activity-based workrooms to the use of coworking spaces and short-term office leases.

To help make things more efficient, employees can be grouped based on their personalities, job functions, work styles, and tasks. This also includes making work hours flexible by allowing employees to work in shifts, rotate their hours, work from home, or condense hours into a 4-day week.


How to monitor the effectiveness of ABW

Monitoring the effectiveness of your ABW efforts should be relatively straightforward, especially if you had set certain goals before redesigning your office.

You should measure workspace utilisation first to ensure that your designs are effective. You can look into how often each space is used, observe the type of work being conducted in each area and compare it with what you pictured.

Ask yourself some of the following questions to see if your initiatives are successfully implemented:

●    Are my employees satisfied?
●    Are my employees more productive?
●    Are my employees working more collaboratively?
●    Are projects being completed faster?
●    Do my employees find it easier to stay motivated and concentrate?
●    Is there enough space to cater all employees’ needs?
●    Are there any areas that aren’t being used?

To make sure that your employees are as satisfied as you are with the changes, direct communications is your best bet. You can also ask them these questions to figure out what they think of the new space. 

If you start to realise that office space utilisation is not what you hoped it to be, take action to make further improvements. Reconfigure the furniture, create more space in certain areas, or implement signages to make it clear to employees what each area is for.


Activity-based workspace design examples

Many of today’s top companies around the world are applying ABW to their office design, here are some examples of best practices that lead the change:

LinkedIn's Workplace Lab

LinkedIn’s Workplace Lab in California was designed with employee experience at the forefront.

The company did plenty of testing and experimenting to come up with a design that is not only cost-effective but also improves employees’ productivity and satisfaction. 

The Workplace Lab now empowers employees to work to the best of their abilities, through a mixture of hot desking, collaboration rooms, outside space, and individual pods.


The digital startup worked with its employees and founders to create a brand-new, fully-customised space for everyone to work.

The company spent considerable time in planning for a fully customisable workspace. They eventually adopted a workspace design with the right balance between social and private – an open-plan workspace with private heads-down work zones incorporated. 


Incorporate activity-based working in your business today 

Interested in experiencing the benefits of ABW, but was on the fence about leasing and renovating a whole new office?

Why not try out our serviced offices? We have a range of flexible workspace options to choose from so you will easily be able to find an office space that works for you and your team.

Compass Offices provides private and secure offices, open and inviting lounge areas, pantries with full amenities, conference and meeting rooms, phone booths, and also customisable office space solution needed for an effective ABW environment.

Get in touch with us today, and let’s find you your next activity-based workspace.


For exclusive offers, the latest industry news, new openings, and more.

Location of interest: