Does Activity-Based Working Actually Work in Europe? The Surprising Facts

by Erin Sevitz on August 14, 2019

Activity-based working (ABW) is a style of workplace design where employees can choose between a variety of different workspaces, each designed for a specific activity. Employees don’t have a single dedicated workstation, but they can work in the kind of space that best supports the type of work they are doing on any given day. 

The concept first originated in Europe and Australia, where many companies have since mastered how to implement activity-based working to increase happiness and productivity.

The efficacy of activity-based working is often debated. Some analysts believe it’s a workplace management game-changer. Others argue the disadvantages of activity-based working outweigh its potential benefits.

However, as you’ll see in the five facts below, activity-based working can absolutely have a positive impact on an organization. And this evidence isn’t anecdotal, either. Research objectively shows activity-based working can increase productivity, improve employee satisfaction, improve space utilization and reduce real estate costs.

Activity-Based Working In Europe: 5 Surprising Facts

  1.  Nearly 70 of participants in a study by Dutch researchers Susan Smulders and Denise Clarijs say an activity-based working environment increases their productivity, and two-thirds feel their work is more stimulating (Kinnarps)
  2.  Over 60 percent of respondents in Smulders and Clariji’s survey say they have more energy in an activity-based working environment (Kinnarps)
  3. Because employees are not assigned a permanent spot, they can self-select their neighbors. This organic selection process diminishes the ability for the negativity of toxic employees to rub off on others. (HOK)
  4.  ABW allows Millennials and Gen Z to interact with older generations of employees and enables the type of social cohesion, information sharing, trust and common vision that are key to fostering organizational DNA. (HOK)
  5.  British utilities company National Grid reduced operational costs by $11.43-14.29 million by implementing activity-based working. It also saw an 8 percent increase in overall productivity. (Woodhouse Workspace)

Implementing Activity-Based Working: 3 Tips

If you decide to implement an activity-based working environment, keep these three things in mind:

  • Make sure the space meets the needs of both the extroverted and introverted members of your workforce.
  • Provide ample workspaces for a wide range of tasks — from enthusiastic collaboration to quiet focused work and everything in between.
  • Ask employees for feedback on the kinds of spaces they want. This helps make it easier to get buy-in.

The next time you hear a colleague criticizing activity-based working, just show them this list of statistics. It’s hard to argue with someone who has reliable data on their side.

Interested in learning more about how companies have updated their workplace strategy to meet the needs of a changing workforce? Check out our eBook, Building the Workplace of the Future.


Erin Sevitz

Erin Sevitz is the Senior Director of Marketing at iOFFICE + SpaceIQ.

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