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