Considering Activity Based Working? Read this first

Here’s the thing. Good businesses always strive to be better.

They focus on innovating; outperforming their competitors; growing their value. They need efficiencies; agility; a talented and motivated workforce.

And—they need workplaces to support this.

That’s why many businesses are experimenting with Activity Based Working (ABW), as they look to create more agile, flexible and ultimately, more effective workplaces.

New to ABW? Read our previous blog Is Open Plan old news? Activity Based Working 101.


Think ABW could be the silver bullet you need?


Here are 5 things to consider when assessing whether ABW is right for your business.


1. Understand your activity complexity


Research suggests that whether (or not) ABW would benefit an organisation depends largely on the activity complexity of employees. Organisations, or parts of organisations with greater activity complexity, are more likely to benefit from ABW and generally find employees more amenable to adopt the necessary new behaviours.

To ensure that ABW is the right approach for your organisation, you need to be sure of your goals and you need to understand how your team’s currently operate. First question, are they doing the type of work that would benefit from an ABW approach?


2. Make a case for the change before you start


Your business is unique. You have your own goals and pressures and in order to successfully implement ABW, you need to know how it will benefit your operation. The principles of ABW are universal but the application is specific to each individual business. Do a business plan as you would for any major business opportunity.


3. Involve your employees


There will be resistance to change. There always is. So you’ll need to actively help your employees overcome their resistance to the changes ABW introduces. Make sure the “what’s in it for me?” benefit case and the reason for changing to ABW are clearly communicated.

Involving staff in the decision process to move to ABW (and the implementation of it) will help overcome some of the resistance. It’s essential that your workforce feel as much a part of the change as management. Get everyone involved from the beginning.


4. Make sure you have the technology to support the move


The idea is that a major shift in the layout and structure of your business premises will provide serious benefits to your operation and productivity. But you need the technology and systems to match. If you’re encouraging flexibility of spaces and people, you’ll need the hardware and software to support that new freedom. This is one aspect of planning which you can’t avoid. Do you have the technology at present to support, to lead and to work with the changes you plan once you implement your ABW system?


5. Be ready for the issues


Research by Leesman highlights that poor adoption of appropriate behaviour in activity based workplaces is a significant problem that limits widespread organisational benefits. In other words, people aren’t taking full advantage of the concept.

The Leesman report poses a number of questions as to why this may be the case including:

# Are some employees struggling to adopt activity based behaviours because their daily work profile is so simple that the benefits are limited?

# Have middle and senior management not been adequately trained or coached in the challenges of directing distributed teams?

# Have the levels of freedom, self-governance and autonomy offered by ABW left some employees adrift, yearning guidance, instruction and the direct feedback offered by more traditional management styles?

# Can poor delivery of key infrastructure items (say WiFi or room booking systems) breed distrust and disengagement in the new strategy from employees?


ABW is a business strategy


If you’re thinking about ABW it’s key to appreciate that it goes beyond designing flexible workspaces. It’s actually a transformational business strategy and as such, a major undertaking.

If you want to achieve all the benefits ABW promises you need to take it seriously. Involve ABW management specialists and behavioural change experts, invest in technology and design, and perhaps most importantly, get buy in from your organisation as a whole.

Do it well and you’ll actually achieve the ABW promise of greater team collaboration, healthier more engaged employees, faster and more efficient decision making, and business innovation.

You’ll become a better business.

At Crestline Furniture Systems, we’re continually evolving our product offering to ensure it encompasses the latest developments in workplace thinking, including ABW. Our mission is to help create vibrant and effective workspaces where people love to work. Want to find out more? Give us a call on 09 257 5015 or email

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