The ins and outs of creating an activity-based workplace

Imagine walking into your office in the morning. How does it feel? Do you feel inspired to be there? Does your office space accommodate what you hope to accomplish today? Do you get to interact and engage with your colleagues? We believe workplaces that are designed to complement the needs of employees and to inspire creativity, collaboration and flexibility are incredibly important. Do your employees have a choice in the place and way that they work that best fits what they have to do?  This design concept is known as an activity-based workplace (ABW) and it is a trend that can impact talent attraction and retention.

When done right, an activity-based workplace can improve your employees’ quality of life professionally, socially and physically—increasing productivity and your company’s bottom line.

Everyone has different tasks and activities during their workdays—it hardly ever happens that one day is exactly like the one before or after it. This means your employees need a workplace that exists to support and empower them to be innovative and productive. Their needs may vary from a café-style open work area or a quiet corner when they need to meet to collaborate and brainstorm. This same corner could also accommodate the employee that needs absolute quiet to focus on the task at hand.

When staff have the flexibility to move around the office in a way that best suits them, they are more easily able to control their level of productivity. It empowers them to manage how and when they connect with their colleagues which leads to more productivity

Building the case for activity-based working

Forty-four percent of global business and HR executives point to flexible work arrangements and changing work environments as a top socio-economic driver of change across industries. And your employees agree—65% of employees note that more collaborate (or conference) spaces for small groups increases productivity. In fact, according to Lauren Trees, research program manager at APQC, the top 4 office design changes to consider for boosting productivity include:

  • More spaces for individual work and quiet reflection

  • More reconfigurable workspaces

  • More conference and collaborative small group spaces

  • More spaces for socializing, networking and spontaneous conversation

By 2020 Gartner predicts that those organizations that support a “choose-your-own” workstyle, such as ABW, will see employee retention rates increase by more than 10 percent. If you’re interested in creating a work culture that supports employee engagement and retention, ABW is one way to improve your environment and foster employee wellness.

How to design an activity-based workplace

Think customization, collaboration and communication. What is important in these areas to your employees? How can you create a workspace that supports them all? Consider aesthetics as well:

  • How can you bring the outdoors, in? (plants, fresh air, etc.)

  • How can you increase natural light?

  • How can you encourage movement throughout the day?

With activity-based workplace design you can provide a variety of options that allow your teams various environments for the work they do, which varies throughout the week. Now the water cooler is not the only place to collaborate!

Planning for activity-based workplace means that the site selection and design process require careful planning by the whole team. First, it’s important to survey your employees so the design team gets a full understanding of how they prefer to work. What are the tasks they perform daily and does their current office environment support those tasks? What could help them to perform better in the office? Your real estate advisor, project manager and design firm can help you to track activities and traffic patterns within your current space to confirm the survey results and determine the best solutions. Understanding real data and metrics is key before you begin any re-design.

Managing this new design and construction project can be overwhelming, especially if it’s a new concept for your company. If you feel an activity-based workplace is the right fit for your company, you want to make sure it is done right. Hiring a consultant or project manager with experience can save you valuable time and money. They can help you with details that you may not think to ask. Should workspace be assigned or un-assigned. How do I plan for remote workers, my sales team, etc.? A project manager can help you to select the right team, can oversee and manage the bid process, and can negotiate contracts on your behalf. They will represent your interests and make sure your goals are reached through close communication with the various vendors on the project to meet deadlines and budgets.

Through KimbleCo’s experience working with companies in the office and industrial sectors, we are seeing more and more adoption of activity-based workplace design. The outcomes are happier, healthier and more productive employees. This design empowers employees through choice, creates opportunity for more innovation and is so appealing that it can help to attract the ideal talent for employment. Employees enjoy coming into the office. 

 If you want to move forward to re-energize your space make sure you have the right team in place and do careful planning before you start!

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about how to implement an activity-based workplace design for your new location; we’d love to meet with you to discuss your vision.