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Activity based workspace
Office of the future
March 30, 2023

Hate your open plan office? Here's how to fix it

"Open office plans are as bad as you thought." - The Washington Post
"Open plan, not working." – The Research Whisperer
"The open-office concept is dead." – Entrepreneur

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll have seen many similar headlines like the ones about the failures of an open office. But if this really is the case, why has open plan become the most common office layout?

As it turns out, the open office design itself isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s how people use it.

You've probably found yourself wondering where to go when you want to take an important Zoom meeting, but got stuck taking it at your desk and getting disrupted by others around you, because there's no other place to go. (And you've walked around the office and checked.)

An activity-based workspace solves this.

Activity based workspace meeting room and meeting booth
Source: Amos Beech

What is an activity based workspace?

An activity based workspace consists of different zones designed for specific tasks. They can include:

  • A team desking area consisting of fixed seating and/or hot desks. The space is communal, but created to allow for individual work such as emails, admin and getting general work tasks done.
  • Individual focus rooms or pods, a small, self-contained, quiet space designed for phone calls, virtual meetings and tasks that require deep concentration.
  • Huddle rooms – a small meeting room equipped with a table, chairs, whiteboards, and audio, video and display software. Available for one person or small groups of three to four as a collaboration space or casual meeting room.
  • Small and large conference rooms which have to be reserved in advance, specifically for formal meetings with external visitors and clients.
  • Lounge area or office kitchen. A social space for casual gatherings, lunch breaks or relaxation.

The advantages of an activity based workspace

It's pretty obvious - employees will feel happier about working from an office if there's a place for them to work from that suits what they need to do - whether it's focusing deeply on a task by themselves, having a quick catch-up with a colleague over coffee, or simply changing up the environment to feel more inspired.

Here are some statistics that support the switch to activity-based working:

  • According to APQC, 65 per cent of respondents noted that providing more designated spaces for small-group collaboration and conversation would increase productivity.
  • A study by Dale’s Office Interiors found that one in five office workers agree that having a space to relax at work is key to increasing productivity. 72 per cent said dedicated soundproof spaces to make phone calls or focus would improve productivity.
  • After adopting an ABW approach, British utility company National Grid’s saw their operational costs reduced by up to US$14m.

So, there you have it. Activity based workspaces that provide employees with a choice of settings might just be the cure to the open office.

office phone booths
Source: E-Architect

But before you get started, ask yourself:


Are your employees ready for an ABW?

A formal survey is the best way to accurately gauge whether employees are happy with the current office setup, and what causes them the most disruption during the workday. After all, an activity-based workspace is meant to be focused on what helps employees.

Employee feedback on current frustrations will tell you what exactly your office needs and what they'll actually adopt from an office improvement project, even if indirectly. (You don't exactly need to ask if they'd specifically want a gaming room with a PS5!)


Is your ABW tailored to your workforce?

While there are a few essential components that make up your typical ABW, every office is different. You need to look at how your employees work in order to create the right activity zones.

For example, maybe your office is more of a place where employees work together and socialize while other work gets done remotely. Or perhaps most of the functions in your company depend on quiet solo spaces to get work done.


An Easy Way to Get Started

You don't need to conduct a full-scale office renovation to create dedicated spaces at your office. You can simply get creative by moving existing furniture around, or adding a few key pieces.

qubic booths

If a dedicated quiet space is something you've decided your office really needs, a solution such as a modular booth would be a great choice. Brands like our own QUBIC Smart Booths make them in different sizes, from a phone booth for Zoom meetings, to a 5-person pod for a team meeting.

QUBIC Booths can be furnished with desks, chairs, monitors, tablets, and whatever else you need to get the job done too!

If you think this is what you're looking for, feel free to reach out! We’d be delighted to help.

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