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ABW Guide

Activity Based Working Guide



At Scandinavian Spaces, we are deeply committed to sustainability, caring for our environment. For us, sustainability also means promoting a sustainable workforce.  We champion the Activity Based Work model, where employees prosper from being able to work in a way that best suits their needs. We have gathered helpful steps to implement this work model.

This guide:

  • Explains the Activity Based Working (ABW) approach, offering insight into ways that your office can become a more people-focused and activity-supporting workplace.
  • Offers five steps in becoming an Activity Based office:
    • Learn about ABW
    • Analyze your current physical space and common activities of the company—as a whole and for its departments, groups, and individuals
    • Imagine the possibilities for your people, the organization of space, and the digital environment based on what you learn about your organization’s needs during analysis
    • Design for those needs with the buy-in and support of leadership and the entire organization
    • Experience your office’s AWB transformation and the long-term health and productivity benefits that emerge from it


What is Activity Based Working?

Today, work is not a place you show up to. It’s what you do, and who you do it with. Traditional workspaces are evolving in response to new technology and cultural shifts. Activity Based Working (ABW) is part of this evolution—a customized approach that meets the variable needs of today’s workplace by offering flexible and stimulating office design. ABW puts people—and what they’re doing—at the center of design.

Transforming your workplace into an ABW environment is more than an interior design project. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the ideal office. The best solution for your company will be a unique one.

Talk to your colleagues:

Get everyone on board

Once a core group has learned about the potentials of an ABW transformation, they should share what they’ve learned with the rest of the organization to ensure that all staff members understand the concept, how it translates to a workplace in practical terms, and the business and people benefits.

Ask yourselves:

  • How can we inform and engage those in our organization who do not know anything about ABW?
  • How can we inspire our colleagues about the potential transformation of our physical space into an ABW environment?
  • How can we motivate leadership and the organization as a whole to invest in the transformation?
  • What obstacles (from fixed mindsets to physical limitations) currently exist at our company that might impede an ABW transformation?
  • How can we address those obstacles during this ABW education phase?

Take action:         

Which of the following might you do at your organization?

  • Hold a seminar about how and why working life has evolved in recent decades, and how this is affecting people and companies.
  • Inform your colleagues about the importance of customizing the work environment so that it supports staff and operations, as well as activities of individuals and groups. Share examples of workspace designs that meet different types of needs.
  • Create an event or communication campaign tailored to your company culture that is highly likely to motivate the organization to embark on an ABW transformation.


Your company is unique

It’s important to analyze your specific requirements. In this step, gather data about your office occupancy rate, work patterns, as well as staff needs, preferences, and wishes. The ABW design you eventually land on will be based upon this data, taking individual and group needs into consideration for an optimal solution. It’s important to involve everyone in the company in this analysis.

Talk to your colleagues: 

Ask yourselves:

  • What do our co-workers do throughout the day?
  • How well is our workplace utilized today? 
  • How does our current office handle the different technologies we use to communicate, including the mobility afforded by new technologies?
  • How does the average work week vary among individuals, groups, and departments?

Take action:         

Survey your co-workers about how much time they spend daily on the following activities:

  • Answer emails
  • Answer phone calls
  • Read
  • Write
  • Take coffee breaks
  • Hold creative stand-ups
  • Meet with clients
  • Exercise
  • Travel
  • Host workshops
  • Work remotely
  1. Determine the occupancy rate of colleagues at their own desks by having them record it (e.g., 3x/day for 2-3 weeks, they log whether they are sitting at their desk).
  2.  Poll workers on what levels of concentration are needed for different activity types: high, medium, or low. Graph the findings.
  3. Gather data on work activities that are conducted outside of the workplace (frequency and type).


How could your office better support your activities?

At this stage, you’ve gathered significant data about what employees actually do during an average week at your organization. Now, assess your current office setup. Do the different spaces reflect the activities of your colleagues? If the two don’t proportionately sync up, you’re not alone: most traditional office designs have not kept pace with evolving employee work trends.

Talk to your colleagues:

Ask yourselves:

  • In what areas is there a distance between the existing office design and furniture and the office our co-workers have described as their ideal ABW environment?
  • What degree of transformation is necessary to get from the existing office to the ABW office?
  • How does this imagined transformation translate into financial terms? What is the business case for this transformation?

Take action:    

  • Poll colleagues to discover what their needs are, and what changes they feel could make their working life more pleasant or efficient.
  • Host a workshop for members of your organization from a variety of different roles. Encourage participants to think expansively while discussing what already works well in the office—and how to optimize that. Bring examples of different types of workspaces (see, for instance, our partner brand Kinnarps’ Case and Spaces for real-world examples).
  • Designate a group to report back on your floor space from an economic standpoint. Identify any unused spaces in the existing office, and sketch ideas for transforming them into vibrant places. Empty desks not only drain creative energy, they also translate to wasted money.


Which environments do you choose for your ABW office design?

Using the outputs from workshops during the “Imagine” phase, your organization is ready to design the new working environment. In this step, it can be beneficial to engage interior designers and architects, depending on the extent and budget of your ABW transformation goals.

Talk to your colleagues:

Ask yourselves:

  • How can we optimize each square foot in the office?
  • How can we make the most of the budget while making transformative design choices?
  • What would a bad investment look like?
  • Are we including the right spaces for the types of communication we most frequently participate in?
  • How does this new design promote our health while working?
  • How can the design feed our sense of well-being and job satisfaction?
  • How can the design support collaborations among co-workers?

Take action:

Select from the following space types for your ABW office design. Base the design selections on what you learned about your workplace activity types and needs in the “Analyze” phase:

  • Small meeting room (high focus group work for 4-6 persons)
  • Large meeting room (high focus group work for 6-20 persons)
  • Lounge (low and semi-focus work; individual or collaborative)
  • Room within a room (low and semi-focus work; individual or collaborative; ideal for spontaneous meetings)
  • Library (high focus individual work; ideal for planning, researching, and reading)
  • Touch down (semi-focus individual work; non-personal seating; quick conversations in smaller groups; good for reading and writing emails in-between meetings and for guests)
  • Canteen/cafeteria (low focus work; individual or collaborative; space to take a scheduled break to eat or drink)
  • Open space (low and semi-focus individual work; non-personal workplaces in an open environment; conducive to knowledge sharing; short phone calls)
  • Concentration workstation (high concentration individual work; ideal for reading, writing, and other computer work)
  • Personal workstation (high, semi-, and low focus individual work; employees can keep personal belongings on the desk or in storage connected to the desk)
  • Phone place (high and semi-focus individual work; ideal for important, sensitive, or long phone calls)
  • Creative workplace (high, semi-, and low focus collaborative work; inspirational and fun space that stimulates creative thinking)
  • Project place (high and semi-focus collaborative work; ideal for project work updates, workshops, and knowledge sharing)
  • Collaboration (semi-focus collaborative work; ideal for spontaneous meetings, short updates, or knowledge sharing


Benefits to company culture, business results, and employee health and happiness

Scientific studies have proven that design has more impact on us than previously thought. A clear connection exists between enjoying your surroundings and doing effective work. When people’s bodies feel better, there’s a positive ripple effect on both the company culture and business results. An ABW office has multiple benefits that employees will experience immediately. It provides an open and flexible environment that encourages spontaneous meetings and allows creativity to flourish. Flexible workstations that adapt to a variety of activities provide ergonomic advantages, use of sustainable solutions, and reduced facility costs through a more efficient use of space. Investing in inspiring design also boosts company pride and attracts new talent.

Talk to your colleagues:

Three and six months after implementing an ABW office transformation, conduct a follow-up with everyone at the organization.

Ask yourselves:

  • In what ways are we satisfied with the design?
  • Are there suggestions for adjusting the design to optimize its benefits, now that we have worked in and experienced it firsthand?

Take action:        

  • Schedule the three-month follow-up to measure satisfaction and gather feedback.
  • Schedule the six-month follow-up to measure satisfaction and gather feedback.

Source: Kinnarps


Ready for the Activity Based work model?

We have all the knowledge and interior solutions you need to implement the ABW model. To purchase our interior or to set up a free consultation to find out more how we can help call 855-811-9676 or email Alternatively fill out our contact form.