Activity-Based Working

March 30, 2021

The classical office is changing, and there are a number of different operating models that are becoming more frequently used – one of which is the ABW model (Activity Based Working). This concept is a way of working, which allows people to choose where they work, when they work, how they work and with whom they work, based on the activity they are doing. Fixed static working environments are slowly fading and are instead being replaced by a variety of different work options, based upon individual requirements, to give employees maximum flexibility. (Veldoen & Company, 2020)

Surprisingly, this concept is not taken from Silicon Valley or some other hub of innovation – In fact, this was actually first conceived in the late 1970s by the American architect Robert Luchetti then, in turn, adapted and implemented in the 1990s by the Dutchman Erik Veldhoen.

The main goal of this concept is to create channels for communication, collaboration and cost reduction. By breaking up usual working patterns and the constant need to orient oneself across different situations, thinking patterns can be transformed and inspire much more creativity in your working day. Furthermore, it can significantly contribute to breaking out of your “social bubble”, as you can often find yourself sitting at the desk next to a new colleague on any given day. This diverse use of office space also reduces the requirements for physical locations to be able to staff the firm’s entire working population, thereby helping to cut costs by eliminating some real-estate from your portfolio.

This model is academically supported by another trend that we are currently seeing in the market, this being the transition of many firms within the country to a more agile way of working. If there are no more fixed desks, in turn, you will start to see the concept of ’management floors’ disappear over time. The removal of such a structure, with the leaders now sitting in much closer proximity to the workforce in an open-plan setting, can be a catalyst for positive team-feeling, as well as enabling said leaders to gain a much more direct appreciation for the hard work carried out by those around them on the floor.

Progressive digitalisation is also conducive to this way of working. Teams are increasingly being formed across several locations, countries and continents, and physical presence in one place is no longer a mandatory requirement. With a mobile phone and notebook, it is easy to move one’s workplace several times a day, as due to GDPR regulations all companies must now adhere to a ‘clean desk’ policy for data protection. One disadvantage often cited here is that it is a challenge for some employees to reorient themselves each day, or that it is difficult to find certain people straight away as they will be on a different desk depending on the work they are doing. Whilst this is a legitimate concern in some ways, this can be mitigated through the use of adaptive technology and adequate training. Overall, such a concept, whilst disruptive, can learn to be of great benefit to many firms.

Does your company have a new model of working environment or are you still currently utilising a much more traditional approach? I would be happy to hear from you and discuss this topic in great detail.

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