Pros and cons of activity-based work (2023)

If you've ever led a team or worked in an office, you're probably familiar with this.traditional workplaceto set up Each employee has their own designated area, usually in the form of a cubicle, and is expected to be there during business hours.

Today, however, more and more companies are abandoning the traditional workplace model in favor of activity-based working (ABW). You've probably heard of it, but what is it? And more importantly, is it right for your business?

In this article, we take a closer look at activity-based working and some of its main pros and cons. In the end, you should have a better idea of ​​whether or not ABW is a good fit for your business.

What is activity-based work?

In the ABW sense, it is simply a type of flexible workspace design that dispenses with fixed desks and instead offers a variety of different work configurations that employees can choose from depending on the task.

While it may seem like a new concept, activity-based working has been around for a while. The term was first coined more than two decades ago.eric fieldhoen, Dutch consultant and author of The Fall of the Office.

Pros and cons of activity-based work (1)

At the time of its conception (1995), offices were often divided by walls and makeshift corners, which meant that employees basically hid. Veldhoen's idea was to create an office space that adapts to the different needs of employees. For example, he suggested that there should be areas for quiet work, socializing, and collaboration.

Since then, the activity-based work model has evolved and been adopted bycompanies worldwide.

Activity-Based Work vs. agile vs. new working methods vs. flexible/hybrid work

When it comes to the workplace, there is no shortage of buzzwords and trends. And if you're not careful, you can easily mix them up.

For example, you will often hear ABW used interchangeably withagile ways of working. Although they are similar, the main difference between them is that agile work focuses on team collaboration, while ABW is more about how each individual gets work done and focuses on the physical space.

ABW is also sometimes known asNew way of working (NWOW)o flexible/hybrid work. While there are some similarities between these terms, the main difference is that NWOW covers a much broader range of work styles and approaches, whereas ABW is just one type of workplace model.

Similarly, flexible/hybrid working allows employees to work remotely or from home if necessary. While ABW can be seen as a type of flexible work, not all flexible work arrangements are considered activity-based.

The elements of activity-based work

For a successful ABW implementation, four key elements must be present:


Pros and cons of activity-based work (2)

First you must have awell designed office space. This means creating a variety of different work environments that meet the diverse needs of your employees. For example, you may want to include dedicated areas for quiet work, team collaboration, socializing, meetings, etc.

sensory experience

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Therefore, you need to create a sensory experience that encourages productivity and creativity. That means paying attention to things like lighting, acoustics, smell, and temperature.

For example, you might want softer lighting in areas where employees need to focus and brighter lighting in areas intended for collaboration. And you need to make sure the temperature is comfortable for everyone, as studies have shown that offices that are too hot or too cold can negatively affect employee productivity.

behavior reinforcement

Next, you need to set up behavioral reinforcement systems that encourage employees to use the various work environments as intended. For example, you may want to use a meeting room reservation system or set up exclusive social areas that are blocked off at certain times of the day.

That way, employees are more likely to stick to the purpose of each space and not use it for activities for which it was not intended.

iterative learning

After all, it takes a learning curve to continually improve your ABW workspace setup. That means receiving regular feedback from employees and making changes based on their feedback.

For example, you might find that certain work environments are underutilized or that employees have a hard time finding certain types of space when they need it. If so, you can make changes to your office layout or add more signage to make it easier for employees to find what they're looking for.

The pros and cons of activity-based work

Now that you know more about ABW, it's time to take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of this type of workplace.

Benefits of activity-based work

There are three main benefits of ABW:

Increased employee productivity and collaboration

Look forand case studies on activity-based working have shown that activity-based working can lead to increased employee productivity and collaboration, as it enables more flexible and efficient use of office space. Because employees can switch to different work environments based on their needs, they are more likely to find the type of work environment that best suits the task at hand.

In addition, ABW can encourage employees to work more collaboratively as it is easier for them to get to know each other and have impromptu meetings or conversations. And when employees feel like they're part of a team, they're more likely to be motivated to do their best.

Employees feel empowered, trusted and valued

ABW can also make employees feel empowered, trusted and valued by giving them more control over their work environment. When employees feel they have a say in how their workplace is designed, they are more likely to be involved and committed to their jobs.

Additionally, trust is an important part of any employer-employee relationship. And when employees feel that their employers trust them to work independently, it can lead to a more positive working relationship.

More communication and knowledge sharing between employees

Finally, ABW can also encourage communication and knowledge sharing among employees, as they are more likely to come into contact with each other throughout the day. When employees can more easily share ideas and information, better decision making and a more cohesive workplace can be achieved.

Disadvantages of activity-based work

While there are many benefits to ABW, there are also some potential downsides that you should be aware of.

Requires comprehensive change management

ABW can be a big game changer for some organizations that require extensive change management to be successful. This is because ABW often means changing the way employees work, which can be disruptive.

Therefore, it is important to have a plan to implement ABW before making any changes. If not, people may resist the change or it may not work as you expected.

There is a risk of frustration if it is not implemented well

Another potential drawback of ABW is that it can lead to frustration if not implemented well.

For example, if there isn't enough space for employees or if the office layout isn't well thought out, it can be hard for employees to find what they need. For example, if there are plenty of brainstorming rooms but not enough quiet areas, employees may have a hard time finding a place to focus on their work.

If employee work styles are not properly managed, some employees may feel that they are not a good fit in the new system.

It can be difficult to find partners

While ABW leads to more communication and knowledge sharing among employees, it can also make it more difficult to find colleagues when you need them.

Without a system in place and so many different work environments, it's not always clear where people are supposed to be, and figuring out where someone is can be difficult. With that, you may be wasting time looking for someone who is not in their usual place.


The future of work is changing and Activity Based Work (ABW) is one of the biggest trends. If you are considering implementing ABW in your organization, it is important to have a plan and consider the potential tradeoffs.

On the plus side, desk reservation tools like Tribeloo can help with the adoption of activity-based working by allowing employees to reserve the desk space they need for their specific activity. This ensures a seamless process where your employees can find and book the perfect room for their needs with just a few clicks.

If you are interested in seeing how Tribeloo can work for your organization,request a demo¡Hoy!


What are the disadvantages of activity based working? ›

Con: Upfront costs. Activity-based working is an investment. In the long run, you increase productivity and could even reduce your occupancy costs. But in the short run, it comes with some initial costs as you reconfigure your workplace.

What are the advantages of activity based working? ›

What are the benefits of activity based working? Benefits of activity-based working include a more efficient use of office space, more communication and knowledge exchange, better recruitment and retention numbers, and fewer costs.

What are the principles of activity based working? ›

The four defining elements of ABW

ABW isn't just about adding couches and phone booths to a workplace. For ABW to exist in a company, four elements must be present: design, sensory experience, behavioral reinforcement, and iterative learning.

What is the biggest disadvantage of ABC? ›

Disadvantages of Activity-Based Costing
  • Collection and preparation of data is time-consuming.
  • Costs more to accumulate and analyze information.
  • Source data isn't always readily available from normal accounting reports.

What are the disadvantages of activity based management? ›

However, one of the primary risks associated with using the ABM method is that it ignores the intrinsic value of activities and focuses only on the quantifiable and financial aspects of each activity.


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