The Activity-Based Workplace – The Evolving Office Design Trend

The way we work is evolving faster than ever before. Technology is undoubtedly at the forefront of this change, allowing us to gain a better work/life balance and improve our productivity. It is also at the forefront of the movement towards activity-based workplace.

This office design trend is revolutionising the traditional office environment. With the option to plug and play anywhere we go, the activity-based workplace presents employees with option of working in different areas that best suit their personal needs in order to be more productive. With more of a focus on comfort, the concept is designed to remove the pressures of the traditional office environment.

What is an Activity-Based Workplace?

It only seemed like yesterday that everyone wanted an open plan office – one with bench style desks and seating, a place where everyone could communicate freely and enjoy the hustle bustle of office life.

While the open plan office, remains a solid solution for many offices in the UK and Worldwide, there is a new trend in town and that’s activity- based workstations.

The activity-based workplace is intended to offer different zones within the office environment where workers can casually or formally sit. They have no fixed abode as it were. Instead, they can find a suitable place to work and move around as they see fit depending on their requirements at the time.

Tech is Fundamental

Technology goes hand in hand with this informal approach in the workplace. Workers need to be able to plug and play anywhere they go. For those considering adopting an activity-based workplace fit out, it’s important to consider tech early on when designing each zone. You will need to deliver:

  • Fast speed Wi-Fi
  • Cloud-based servers
  • Charging points
  • Air printers
  • Supporting AV equipment
  • Smart climate control
  • Smart lighting systems

Who Suits Activity Based Workplace?

Millennials are usually considered to be the driving force behind every controversial design decision and new fad. Let’s take co-working spaces for instance, they are a relatively new concept, but they have revolutionised the way we work by facilitating flexible working arrangements. Consequently, we are seeing an increase in start-ups, freelance workers and its allowing organisations to establish local offices in different regions throughout the UK and Worldwide.

In an industry that is set to grow by 56% in the next four years, it is no surprise the co-working office industry is revolutionising the office design world too. Many co-working spaces have adopted an activity-based workplace – offering zones where people can have meetings or acoustic booths that provide a quiet place to work.

While most would believe that the millennial generation is primarily benefitting from such flexible workspaces, it is in fact a solution enjoyed by multi-generations. Take a report by MBO on ‘Digital Nomads’ for example. It states that 54% of Digital Nomads – individuals that work on the move via their digital devices communicating via email and video – are aged over 38 years old. They are not only enjoying a better work/life balance, but financial benefits too. One in six Digital Nomads earn more than $75,0000 per annum.

In co-working spaces and offices everywhere, activity based working conditions are allowing individuals to thrive under different working conditions. We all have different preferences when working which can make us more productive.

Opposed the open plan office arrangement with no boundaries, activity-based workplaces reintroduce separation to accommodate the individual’s needs. According to a study by The Royal Society in 2018 this could be a good thing. The experiment removed all boundaries within the office, including desk partitions. It recorded that face-to-face interaction decreased by 70% approx. and email correspondence increased by 20-50%.

If ever you needed more evidence why an activity-based workplace could be beneficial for your business, the Harvard Business Report states that one third of employees are bothered by noise distractions, such as the phone ringing, typing and co-workers, and half wanted to see improvements to their environment.

The activity-based workplace could be the future for all, but the open plan office shouldn’t be written off just yet.

Why We Shouldn’t Overlook the Traditional Open Plan Office?

Before embarking on any office redesign or fit out, it is important to understand the employees needs and daily demands of the business. For the right company an activity-based workplace works well, such as a creative agency, sales team that is inconsistently in the office, or a shared workspace.

Before we fully embrace an activity-based workplace, let’s revisit the benefits of the traditional open plan office, where everyone has their own desk.

The workplace is increasingly becoming an extension of the home and being able to personalise our workstation is part of that. Having your very own desk means we can personalise the space at work by displaying pictures, adopting our favourite seating position and storing our favourite snacks in that bottom drawer. For many employees, having your own dedicated space in the office is all part of enjoying the working environment. A space of your own gives a feeling of belonging within the company and helps to forge friendships with the people around us.

Having a safe space to keep documentation is important too. If only there was a way of having it all. Oh wait, there is….

How to Combine Traditional and New Office Design and Layout

We all want the best of both worlds and this can be possible with activity based and open plan office design. Let’s look to the Bürolandschaft office concept that was designed in the 1950s by brothers, Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnell.

After the second world war the duo wanted to move away from the conservative row-style seating and create a fluid workplace that was developed on the movement of people within an office. At the time it was not widely implemented, but It would appear that the concept was ahead of its time. Much of their concept was about developing zones, one that is far more suited to today’s modern workplace.

This can be adapted to suit the design and layout of your office. First you need to know what zones should be included to suit your office. Here are some examples of the type of zones a typical activity-based office design provides:

  • Quiet spaces are ideal for projects or phone calls that demand full concentration with no distractions
  • Informal spaces are for those that work best in a relaxed environment or require an informal place to meet with colleagues. Think comfortable seating, or games area with a ping pong table.
  • Brainstorming space for developing ideas and creations. A white board is essential, but there are some fun white board tables and walls to choose from too.
  • Breakout zones are for informal meetings or somewhere to take time out. Booths, partitioning, furniture, shelving, lighting and even flooring can define a breakout space.
  • Meeting rooms provide a formal space for meetings and confidential conversations. You can create a meeting room with partitioning or a fabricated self-standing booth.
  • General workspace for those that enjoy the hustle and bustle of a traditional workplace, or their job requires communication with colleagues.

Office Pods and The Activity-Based Workplace

One product that you are likely to see in an ultra-modern activity-based workplace is the office pod, or ‘phone booth’ as some may call them.

The office pod was originally exhibited at the annual commercial design exposition NeoCon by Finland’s Framery. Since then, their concept has taken off, with competitors following their success. Last year the company created 10,000 pods and expect to sell 15,000 this year. While their Canadian competitor, Onetwosix have experienced a 500% increase in daily inquiries compared to the same time last year.

Designed as a standalone room within the office space, the office pod comes in many different forms and sizes. Some are completely soundproof, with acoustic properties ideal for recording studios, radio stations, editing and voice recordings.

If you would like to adopt an activity-based workplace design as part of your office refurbishment in Kent, London, Surrey or Sussex office then contact our team today for more information. We can design a space that meets the needs of your business and its employees. Give us a call today on 0333 207 0339.

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