How activity-based work environments fit into our new world of work

Picture of Meara Hamidiani

Added on by 4 min read

two people working on laptops in modern office

Activity-based work helps employees decide between various work settings to suit the task they're carrying out.

"…we are very much still in the age of the Activity-Based Workplace (ABW), where the focus has expanded from individual productivity into team effectiveness." -  Phil Kirschner, Beyond ABW (and COVID-19): The Connectivity Based Workplace

With enough experience, it's possible to enhance efficiency and productivity by changing the space where you work. The traditional nine-to-five workspace typically comprises closed office rooms with cubicles and fluorescent lighting.

However, a survey found an overwhelming 87% of employees would prefer if their current employer offered them healthier workspace options. These options include spaces such as wellness rooms and benefits such as healthy lunch options, fitness centers, and ergonomic seating.

Let's take a closer look at what exactly activity-based work environments are, and how they support today's new world of work.

What is activity-based work?

It's not just about creating an open space and adding a few couches to the common room.

Activity-based workplace environments enhance productivity through behavioral reinforcement, iterative learning, sensory experience, and design.

How do activity-based work environments function?


Activity-based offices have various spaces that serve different functions. If employees want a silent space to focus on a task, they can work in the study. Meetings can be carried out in the conference room.

You can work with other teams in specialized booths designed for collaboration. No matter which workplace activity you need to carry out, there's a space for it.

Sensory experience

Activity-based workspaces are full of cues that indicate to employees explicitly or implicitly about how they should use a space. A high-energy area could be the kitchen or common room, where employees can hear music, smell coffee, and take in the experience of being around other people.

An example of a low-energy workspace is a study that has dedicated stations equipped with noise-canceling headphones. Environmental elements play a significant role in how workers use these spaces. They reinforce the physical design of the workspace.

Iterative learning

Activity-based environments are a relatively new concept. However, company leaders and HR managers are quickly recognizing the value of iterative learning based on feedback loops for employees. They can then apply these findings to their activity-based workspace to improve it.

Behavioral reinforcement

It's vital for employees to use spaces for the functions they're designed to serve. For example, you need to ensure that employees remain quiet in the study zone so everyone can focus on the tasks they have to complete.

How activity-based environments fit into the new world of work

When governments worldwide enforced remote working, many employees were unprepared for the realities and difficulties they'd have to face.

However, employees in Sweden had a different story. They were prepared for remote work due to their digital advancements.

Unlike works in other countries, Swedish employees' productivity and well-being remained on track. Qualitative studies showed that Swedish workers thrived out of the office.

Swedish companies were among the first to develop and optimize activity-based workspaces. The flexibility and work-centric nature of these environments played a large part in Swedish employees smoothly adjusting to remote work.

"In an increasingly connected and mobile world, employers must also develop a clear and coordinated emergency response plan that protects their employees while maintaining effective levels of productivity." - Janet Pogue McLaurin & Tama Duffy Day, In the Face of the Coronavirus, Workplace Wellness is Key

Activity-based offices have spaces that serve different functions.

The flexible design of these offices can adjust to make enough space between desks and communal areas to follow distancing guidelines. They're ideal for employees in a post-pandemic world where they can choose their seats based on the kind of work they're doing.

An activity-based office combined with remote work forms a hybrid workspace for your employees. 92% of employees want a hybrid work situation. By giving your employees a hybrid workspace, you significantly reduce costs related to administration and maintenance.

People flow management in activity-based workspaces

HR professionals and administrative staff need to ensure that workplaces follow social distancing measures and, in the US, the latest OSHA guidelines.

A people flow management system enables you to meet OSHA's requirements while also helping to fulfill employee needs for an efficient activity-based office.

Here are a few of the ways a people flow management system helps facilitate a seamless and safe modern work environment.

  • Monitoring building occupants (and limiting occupancy): Provide HR personnel with real-time insight into the number of employees occupying a specific workspace. Use building occupancy features to limit the number of people on-site comply with social distancing practices.
  • Pre-screening health questionnaires: If a visitor or an employee is supposed to arrive at the office, send a digital health questionnaires to ensure they aren’t putting themselves or others at risk.
  • Ensuring building health and safety awareness in advance: Send health and safety protocols to employees and visitors before they arrive on the premises to ensure they know what to expect and how to keep safe on-site. 
  • Allowing for a touchless check-in:  People flow management systems like Proxyclick have touchless check-in features that employees and visitors can use to check-in by simply scanning QR codes from their mobile devices, thereby minimizing the contact they have with common surfaces.
  • Contact tracing: Securely store contact information and easily access it in case a virus exposure on-site calls for necessary contact tracing. 

Moving forward together

Pandemic-era safety measures will continue to play an important role in keeping offices safe, all while workspaces away from home will remain key for collaboration and socializing.

Thus, organizations will find creating activity-based work environments to be crucial in meeting their employees' needs.

And as many choose to maintain full-time or part-time remote working, HR professionals have ample time to prepare, reimagine, and enhance their office spaces - ensuring the right technology is in place to bring it all together.

Additional resources


Learn more about how Proxyclick helps organizations ensure efficient and safe workplaces, primed for modern employee needs. Talk to one of our experts today.

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