Activity-based working: Let’s take a look at modern work

Activity-based working: Let’s take a look at modern work

The open-plan office is history. Today, anyone who wants to create a productive environment is guided by activity-based working. The here is: For every task, there is a suitable place – from individual work in silence to creative project design in a team. This cultural change requires a spatial structural change in order to fully exploit the benefits. Find out here what exactly Activity-based working is and how you can successfully implement the transformation.


 Table of contents

Activity-based working: Definition and basics

Activity-based working (ABW) is a model that has the potential to completely rethink traditional work structures. It starts with the way people do their work and extends to the use of space.

In concrete terms, this means that instead of assigning a person a fixed workplace, the space is subordinated to the task. In the context of activity-based working, employees have the opportunity to choose their work location and space more freely, depending on the tasks at hand.

What does this mean? To a certain extent, companies lose control over their team, which in turn gains (spatial) autonomy. In order for such a major cultural change to be successful and satisfactory for both sides, a prudent approach is required: Analysis, critical reflection and an open ear for the concerns of all those involved are the basis for the successful implementation of ABW.

In the best-case scenario, activity-based working creates a flexible working environment in which employees have more freedom to organize themselves – and accept and appreciate this accordingly. On the company side, ABW in turn offers opportunities to increase productivity. At the same time, there are often ways to redesign and optimize existing spaces and, as a result, save on operating costs.

Background: How did the activity-based working model come about?

The activity-based working concept is closely linked to changes in society – as studies have shown. A core element of this change is the pandemic: Before coronavirus, it was common to spend working hours in the office. The lockdown phases established the home office as the new workspace and made communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom the standard. Many employees were able to discover new advantages for themselves as a result of the change of location, such as:

  • Undisturbed quiet work
  • More time by eliminating the commute
  • Better work-life balance

The consequences: Many offices with assigned desks have become empty. Instead, teams use the space as a meeting place: for joint discussions, project planning or to maintain social contacts.

This gave rise to the ABW concept of allocating space to the type of work – and thus designing an office space with different areas that promotes creativity, productivity and socializing. At the same time, this structural change requires companies to implement a new work culture that focuses on flexibility.

Space design according to activity-based working: Concepts and space ideas

The design of ABW offices is based on four types of activity: (1) concentration, (2) collaboration, (3) learning and (4) social interaction. Each of these types of work requires an individual working environment. A few examples:


  • Individual cubicles
  • Rooms with sound insulation
  • Desk that can be booked for a specific time


  • Shared desks
  • Group rooms
  • 2-person cubicles


  • Media rooms
  • Workshop areas
  • Comfortable seating for online seminars

Social interaction

  • Open kitchenettes
  • Lounges
  • Sports room

The activity-based working concept also involves asking yourself how much space the company actually needs. Although empty offices offer the opportunity for other uses, they also entail costs. For example, it may make more sense to give away some of the office space instead of planning disproportionately large meeting rooms.

ReCoTech helps you to identify space potential and make the best possible use of your available space.

» Learn more

The office of the future: What will Activity Based Working change?

Activity-based working doesn’t just mean a change in the physical working environment. Above all, the concept involves a transformation in the way work is understood and carried out. Accordingly, the implementation of the ABW model in existing companies requires a structural and cultural change.

At a structural level, the main focus is on keywords such as flexibility and dynamism. The free choice of work location requires clear agreements in which employees are viewed as individuals: Who works best where, when do team meetings take place? This equal consideration of all employees can break down traditional hierarchies, but also harbors the risk of excessive demands.

Important to know: If you want to introduce activity-based working concepts, you should take a close look at change management. ABW is not only associated with a changed space concept – rather, the term activity-based working is based on an organizational cultural change.

Top performance: The advantages of ABW

A modern working environment based on activity-based working offers a number of advantages – for both companies and employees. The most important aspects include the following:

Increased productivity and efficiency

ABW gives employees the freedom to choose the work area that best suits their current task. This allows different activities to be carried out in the best possible and most efficient way. In addition, employees can work in an environment that promotes their concentration and creativity, which can lead to a higher quality of work.

Improving employee satisfaction

The flexible working environment enables employees to achieve a better work-life balance.  ABW also gives them greater autonomy, which makes employees feel more valued and respected. This increases overall job satisfaction – and strengthens loyalty to the company. The prerequisite for this is always that the workforce is ready for this type of cultural change.

Promoting innovation and collaboration

By turning the office into a social space, activity-based areas promote creative collaboration. By providing open and collaborative workspaces, employees can exchange ideas more easily. This promotes productive innovation and makes the company more competitive.

Hurdles of the new world of work: Challenges in implementing ABW

Like any major change, the transition to activity-based working is fraught with difficulties. So if traditional companies want to implement the New Work concept, they should be aware of the following points:

Resistance to new things

Any change to the working environment or culture can be met with disapproval – and ABW is no exception. Some employees will find it difficult to break away from established ways of working, especially if they are used to a fixed place or routine. It is important to recognize and address this resistance: Communicate clearly the benefits of ABW or offer support such as training to ease the transition.

Need for new management skills

ABW requires a different type of management than traditional working models: Managers need to learn how to manage and evaluate workers who work flexibly and autonomously. New leadership training can provide new insights and soft skills.

Data protection and security

As activity-based working often goes hand in hand with new technologies and digital tools, there are often questions about data security. Companies must ensure that they take appropriate measures to protect the privacy of their employees and manage internal company data securely.

Adapting the physical working environment

Implementing ABW often requires a redesign of office space to provide a variety of activity-based workspaces. This can involve a significant investment and planning effort.

ReCoTech supports you in this: Analyze your existing space with our software. The software then calculates the best possible occupancy of the new space.

» Book a demo

It’s all about the tools: Digital tools for activity-based working

An office landscape of the future is closely linked to the right technology. After all, the flexible workplace concept is part of activity-based working – and software programs form the link to ensure location-independent collaboration. Here are some of the most important digital tools that can be useful in an ABW environment:

  • Collaboration and communication tools (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace) – enable the uncomplicated exchange of data and communication in real time
  • Project management tools (e.g. Asana, Trello, Jira) – for organizing tasks and monitoring project progress and deadlines
  • Cloud storage and file sharing (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive) – employees can access, save, share and collaborate on data from anywhere
  • Virtual meeting tools (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet) – for virtual meetings, including the option to record presentations and use them for further work

Our advice: The choice of suitable tools depends on the specific needs and objectives of the company. You should therefore carefully check which software is best suited to your working methods and corporate culture. Managers in particular must ensure that all employees can use the tools effectively – training may be necessary.

Implementing ABW safely: A 5-step plan for implementing Activity-based working

Office concepts based on activity-based working will determine future forms of work. However, this is not just about replacing the permanently assigned desk with open group rooms: ABW requires a change in the entire corporate structure and culture – which may meet with resistance from traditionally minded colleagues.

The key to successfully implementing an ABW concept is therefore careful planning and transparent communication. This 5-step plan will support you if you want to implement Activity-based working in your company:

Needs analysis and planning

  • Analyze the needs and requirements of your company.
  • Use surveys, interviews or workshops with your employees to do this.
  • The goal: Understand how your workforce works.
  • Your key questions: What types of activities do your employees perform? What kind of working environment do they need?

Development of an ABW office concept

  • Which workspaces should there be?
  • Which digital tools are necessary?
  • What needs to change in the work culture?

Spatial office design

  • Quiet areas for concentrated work
  • Open spaces for collaboration
  • Informal places for creative tasks and social interaction

Implementation of digital tools

  • Collaboration and communication tools
  • Project management tools
  • Cloud storage
  • Virtual meeting tools

Further training and support for employees

  • Training courses
  • workshops
  • Individual coaching sessions

Please note: Introducing an ABW office concept is a continuous process that requires regular reviews, adjustments and re-evaluations. This is the only way to determine which measures and implementations really suit your company – in order to ultimately find an activity-based working model from which you can derive the greatest possible benefits.

ReCoTech accompanies you on this journey: Our space optimization tool makes it easier for you to plan new office landscapes that are optimally tailored to the available space. Our software for digital workplace booking also enables you to gain an insight into the use of the new spaces – and thus check the success of the ABW implementation.

Create a workplace concept of the future: with flexible organization, intelligent room designs and lower operating costs.

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Frequently asked questions

What is activity-based working?

Activity-based working is a concept in which the type of working environment depends on the specific task. An open-plan office with permanently assigned desks thus becomes a place of social interaction – with group rooms for project planning or open spaces for collaborative creative work, for example.

How can I implement activity-based working?

The most important factor is: ABW is no one-size-fits-all solution. Hence, you have to analyze the needs of your working environment first – especially the specific work tasks and available space. Also note that ABW often comes with a change in your company’s culture: Be open to revise current management and communication structures.

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