Making Activity Based Working work for your Office

Activity Based Working (ABW) is a transformational business strategy, that takes into account where, when and how people work. First introduced in the 1970’s, the concept of ABW was further developed in the Netherlands in the 1990s. More and more UK firms are now looking to ABW as a means of getting greater productivity out of both their offices and their teams.

Interior design and fit out with HCP

Interior design and fit out with HCP

Whilst the overarching concept of ABW is simple, there are also implementation challenges that need to be considered. Rather than operating from the assumption that an individual will undertake all their work in one setting like a fixed desk, you create an environment which offers a variety of settings depending on the task, such as workstations, collaboration areas, meeting spaces, or areas for quiet concentration. ABW also extends to outside the office, giving staff the flexibility to work from home or another remote location, including travelling.

Times have changed and so have the ways that we now work. Rising rents have put pressure on companies like never before. For a business, your office costs are likely to only be exceeded by the cost of salaries. And nowadays with the floor space taken up by a litter bin in Central London costing up to £200 per square foot every month, ABW provides the opportunity to use your office asset better and to work smarter in your existing space.

With technology completely changing the need for everyone to come into the same workplace, at the same time, businesses today are increasingly realising that technology has created an opportunity to also rethink the relationship between the office environment and how to increase workplace productivity and effectiveness. This is why ABW offers much more to office design than simply providing a solution to space saving.

Photo by LYCS LYCS on Unsplash

One size approach does not fit all

The starting point for effective ABW is to examine everything from a people perspective. It’s an evidence based approach, which first of all analyses and understands factors such as your organisations size, culture, objectives, ways of working, and leadership and management style.

What’s really important to recognise at the outset is that ABW is both a workplace and business strategy, and is best suited in an environment where there is inclusivity in decision making at all levels. This requires levels of freedom, self-governance and autonomy that are not so well supported in organisations that practice more traditional management techniques.

ABW can only be truly successful when it has the full backing of the management team, and the people aspects have been fully considered in order to win the hearts and minds of staff.

At its best, ABW should bring people together and enhance work activity. However, not every business may be ready for all aspects of ABW. For instance, the flexibility offered by desk sharing may or may not be the best solution in every case and there may be a lack of flexible access to technology across all parts of the organisation

In many instances, the optimum solution is achieved through a combination of traditional working methods and ABW, looking at the most productive way individuals work, creating an office layout that encourages collaboration, technological advantage and making the best use of both formal and informal meeting spaces.

How we can help

Successful ABW begins with finding the solution that is best for you, and at Cityspace we’ve worked with many businesses, both big and small, to create the optimum ABW environment.

We know that offices are all about people, and can therefore guide you through the research, planning and implementation to create an ABW workspace that helps your people collaborate, share knowledge, and maximise your productivity and growth.

To find out more about how to make ABW work for you, please email us on

In today’s market, it pays to think ahead...

After the summer break, it’s now back to business, and for businesses approaching an expiry on their office lease, thinking ahead can pay dividends in today’s market.

Despite continued economic uncertainty, occupier sentiment seems to be mounting, with office take-up across central London at its highest level post the EU referendum. This strong occupier activity has been a feature of the London office market in the first half of this year, with BNP Paribas saying that take-up of space was 26% ahead of the same period last year. This has been especially evident in offices below 5,000 sq.ft, with deals up 21% on H1 2017. 

In the City, healthy demand has continued the downward pressure on available space. Vacancy levels in the City are now significantly below their 10 year average, and JLL highlights that any new build supply is being quickly absorbed by the market.

The picture is similar in the West End, with BNP Paribas pointing to the combination of strong demand and a restricted development pipeline resulting in supply falling to its lowest level since Q1 2016. According to Colliers International, West End vacancy rates have dipped below 5% for the first time since the start of 2017, and new or refurbished availability is fast approaching a record low, having fallen by over 60% in the past 12 months.

Both Midtown and the Southbank have also experienced buoyant demand, with vacancy rates here also well below 10 year averages. The Southbank has especially been feeling the squeeze, with vacancy rates reaching record low levels of 2.59%, the lowest of any London sub-market, according to BNP Paribas.

So what does this mean for tenants approaching a lease expiry? Well, tightening supply means it now pays to activate property searches earlier than previously in order to secure your preferred space. Nowadays, we recommend to our clients looking for spaces under 5,000 sq.ft to start their decision-making process at least 6 months before lease expiry. For properties between 5,000-15,000 sq.ft we recommend starting up to one year beforehand and, for bigger properties, an 18 month time frame is recommended in order to provide the widest choice available.

Incisive Media Project

Incisive Media Project

At Cityspace, we’re getting an increasing number of enquiries from clients asking us to undertake research on potential sites and costs. Using our extensive property database, we’re able to very quickly provide clients with a range of choices, looking at both on and off-market opportunities. And for new opportunities that we identify, our initial Evaluation Report can help clients with their decision making by giving them a clear view of potential costs and time-frame.

If you’re approaching a lease expiry, our advice in today's market is to think ahead in order to open up the widest possible options. If you would like us to help you assess your office options, please do get in touch.

There’s much more to a tea point than tea

There was a time when the kitchen area was tucked away in some corner of the office, often closed off by a door. Just a simple, functional cubbyhole for making a cup of coffee or brewing a pot of tea. A secondary space, cut off from the main office function.

But then things started to change. As kitchen areas started to get a little less functional and a little more staff friendly, people began spending time in them. The humble kitchen area started to come into its own, moving from just a beverage and lunchtime venue, to an all-day breakout space for colleagues.

Today, the modern office design of kitchen areas has come a long way. It’s no longer an afterthought, pushed to the periphery - in fact it’s more front and centre than it’s ever been before. In our designs, we encourage clients to think of their kitchen area as an important in-between space in the working environment, a place of relaxation and informality, but also a place of conversation and cross-fertilisation of ideas. And the more you bring it into the centre of your office, the more central it will become to office life.

Wolverine Europe

New Kitchen Project

In terms of design, we encourage clients to think about the expectations of their staff and the social atmosphere they want to create. The meteoric rise of barista culture has set the standard for how the modern office kitchen should now look - more like a coffee shop, and less like the purely functional kitchens of the olden days. And while beverages are important and so is the kit to make them, what is of most importance is the meeting, conversation and relationship building that takes place in the space.

Every office needs a kitchen area. And employers are increasingly recognising what their employees have long known - there’s much more to a tea point than just a cup of tea.