What is Activity-Based Working?

The concept of Activity-Based Working is becoming more and more popular each year. What does this notion actually mean?

What is Activity-Based Working?

It assumes that people perform diverse activities in their daily work, and therefore, in order to do their tasks effectively, they need different conditions supported by the right technology and culture. Should a furniture producer be involved? Adapting the office to employees is growing in importance – that is why it is worth exploring emerging possibilities and the benefits resulting from the application of ABW in workspace design.

The concept of Activity-Based Working

Allowing each employee to organize their activities according to their needs helps them take advantage of their potential. ABW assumes that an employee has no fixed workspace such as a permanently assigned desk. Instead, each day they choose a desk depending on their current needs. Since activities can vary, it is crucial to choose the right office furniture. For the users who prefer subtle, sophisticated details, System-eM workstations will prove perfect as they offer a wide variety of shapes and colors. Lano-E 300 T desks with electrically adjustable tops will be an ideal choice for the employees who value the ability to change body positions throughout the day. MARO's vast array of office furniture easily adapts to you and creates spaces that meet the expectations of even the most demanding users.

Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing that ABW does not only limit to interior design, but is also associated with innovative solutions such as space booking systems as well as culture and internal organization management in a broader sense. Erik Veldhoen in his book "The Demise of the Office” from 1995 introduced the notion of Activity-Based Working. The concept itself had already appeared under other terms such as Flexible Working or Smart Workplace. Those terms cover the idea of a flexible work model that allows to adapt the form and place of your work activity. Developments in technology and economics, as well as the shifted perception of a workplace, have accelerated the spread of the flexible work environment trend. The choice of office space solutions is determined by the level of concentration required from the employees to perform specific tasks. Thus, it is essential to carry out a thorough analysis of the time and type of work in a particular company.

Future office in line with Activity-Based Working

ABW's popularity is increasing thanks to the growing number of its successful implementations. As a result, the demand for different office furniture is growing. Veldhoen + Co. began collaborating with Interpolis in 1990 to implement an activity-based work system. Fixed allocated desks were eliminated from offices while management encouraged its employees to decide where, when and how long they wanted to work. The flexible working mode quickly benefited the company. Today, more and more offices are choosing to switch to the ABW system, although the approach is still fairly new in Poland.

It is becoming more and more common to design not only classic office work areas, but also dedicated spaces for focused work, meeting places, chill out zones or creative or team work areas. To provide work space variety, in addition to classic desks, MARO recommends opting for high tables from Idea collection. Their wide range of sizes enables to fit them into even the most limited spaces, creating a casual conversation space.

The primary objective of Activity Based Working is not to deprive employees of their own desks, but to provide them with conditions that best suit the character of their current work. It is easier to set up an activity-based space with the help of suitable office furniture. An extremely interesting solution, proposed by the furniture producer which aligns perfectly with the ABW concept, is Wariant collection of mobile furniture. It responds to the needs of work made up of diverse activities. In a nutshell, an average day usually consists of activities that fall into three main categories: activities that require a high level of concentration, communication activities and administrative tasks - some of which are automated and performed mainly at a computer. For instance, conceptual work, which requires concentration, can be reinforced with the help of a desk with high partitions and an upholstered panel that insulates sounds. For short conversations, Wariant Meeting Place with a whiteboard for taking notes will be ideal. If an employee is facing longer administrative work at a computer, it is recommended to equip them with a desk with height adjustment and a docking station, or a two-person desk.

The nature of today's work settings is rapidly evolving. By embracing the potential of modern technology, it is possible to work virtually anywhere. Unquestionably, this has contributed to a decline in the demand for individual office workstations. Office spaces have faced the challenge of meeting the expectations of their employees. Classic offices of the past are giving way to solutions that are far more flexible and functional. They place emphasis on leeway and diversity of activities. Investing in a modern office is certainly a move that benefits both employers and employees.

What benefits can Activity-Based Working bring?

The main advantages stemming from this work space organization system include:

Boosting employee efficiency and creativity

Agile working allows employees to choose themselves where they will work in the most efficient way. It is easier to deliver a given task thanks to a favorable environment which allows the employees to focus or work creatively. It also speeds up their work. Moreover, a suitable space promotes innovative solutions. If an employee does their job best in quiet surroundings, they will be able to easily find the right place with no distracting stimuli. However, if at any time they need to consult a colleague or brainstorm an idea with their team, they can move to a space that allows for unconstrained chatting.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Helath, in the paper "The Impact of Activity Based Working (ABW) on Workplace Activity, Eating Behaviors, Productivity and Satisfaction," presents a study in which participants were asked to rate their performance on nine work parameters. These were: quantity and quality of work performed, meeting deadlines, frequency of errors, assuming responsibility, creativity, getting along with others, reliability, overall work, and productivity. Employees were asked to rate their productivity using a 10-point scale. The study's findings identified, among other factors, a variety of settings to perform tasks, greater ability to collaborate at multiple levels of management as well as flexibility and autonomy as factors that improve their efficacy. Respondents pointed to the need to adjust to a new workplace and less contact with the immediate team as concerns when applying ABW. These factors indicate the importance of a good ABW setting, enabling the team to be introduced to the new work system - thus reducing the time needed for getting used to the new conditions. Therefore, productivity gains are also driven by a change in work culture, teamwork and management.

The possibility of reducing office space maintenance costs

Office space rental costs are a significant burden to the company's budget. It is reported that statistically only 70-80% of available office space is used. This figure means that there is some unused space which generates costs. In an era of dynamic changes in the perception of working systems, the concept of the workplace itself has also evolved. It is no longer synonymous with being present in your office. Home office and hybrid work are becoming increasingly common. Employees realize what conditions they need to do their job well and expect to have them provided by their employers. The ABW concept usually assumes the use of fewer workstations than the actual number of employees. Employees, in accordance with their scheduled activities, can use the solutions that best suit their activities at a particular time. Due to a greater interest in hybrid work and no need to maintain fixed workstations for all employees, rented space can be limited. More and more employers are inclining towards this work model, partly leveraging the popularity of home office. Also, in such a system, an employee can enjoy the benefits of modern office furniture solutions - such as StartUs desks, which provide work comfort, keep the interior aesthetically pleasing and allow to maintain work-life balance. The hybrid work model is spreading, therefore, according to the studies, many ABW-style office spaces maintain a workstation-to-employee ratio of 0.7-0.8. Achieving cost optimization also requires analyzing the amount of work performed at a desk and in other spaces so as to ensure that all are used efficiently. Rotational spaces break with the conventional approach: my workspace = my desk in favor of the approach: my workspace = diverse office space.

Fostering relationships within the team and cooperation between employees

In offices incorporating the Activity Based Workplace concept, employees can move freely between office spaces. As a result, collaboration is easier and faster as the team can choose the right work space for themselves. This saves time and facilitates the flow of information, thus the quality of cooperation is considerably improved.

Boosted engagement and employee well-being

The research conducted by Veldhoen + Company in 2020 found a 17% rise in workplace satisfaction after companies switched to Activity-Based Working. Satisfaction and comfort at work translate into productivity. As presented in the study, the boost in individual activity was observed at 13%, while group activity rose by 8%. Taking advantage of this, each day MARO Office Furniture seeks out new solutions dedicated to office spaces, introducing new products to meet users’ diverse needs.

So, a new reveal of office furniture?


The decision to implement a holistic work environment based on ABW requires careful consideration and suitable preparation. To ameliorate the work system in your organization, it is worth making even a partial use of this approach. The right choice of office furniture will allow you to arrange spaces dedicated to an array of activities performed throughout a working day. ABW office design serves as an excellent alternative to an open space office. Over-stimulation does not encourage concentration, while the inability to move from one place to another during a day adversely affects productivity and creativity.

It is key to engage employees in the process of creating diverse spaces. The choice of solutions should be based on their specific needs, work styles, as well as the nature their tasks. At MARO Office Furniture, we offer solutions dedicated to each work style. By addressing real needs, spaces in the office are used in a better way, thus the quality of work rises. However, it is worth remembering that the implementation of ABW takes time. The first changes should focus on the management and cultural levels of the organization. Later, you can start planning a new office design. You should also remain open to continuous space adjustments.

Check out our arrangement suggestions - planning starters