Activity-based working solves the problem of many open offices, which is that they fail to account for different work styles between employees and among tasks. A semi-open office certainly has potential, but just because employees can see and hear each other better doesn’t mean they’re more likely to collaborate.

The answer is to create a variety of thoughtfully conceived work spaces—or zones—that are conducive to different needs. What kinds of work are completed on a regular basis? What type of setting would be best for each?

Organize by function

Try shifting from an ownership to a membership model. The most productive workplaces are no longer one-person-per-desk, but, rather, non-territorial neighborhoods by function. Diverse settings support the different ways people work, whether that’s alone, in pairs or in groups of various sizes.

  • Conference room: formal meeting space, external facing
  • IT/mobile stations: multiple touch points for tech support
  • Huddle rooms: acoustic privacy, impromptu meetings, casual brainstorming
  • Phone rooms: acoustic/visual privacy, unscheduled use, solo work
  • Quiet zones: community area or floor for focused, solo work
  • Social “magnet” areas: cafes, “living rooms”, comfortable furniture, noise friendly, casual gathering spot

Maintain proximity

Different types of work areas should be acoustically isolated but still close in proximity. Employees need to be able to transfer between work modes quickly. If collaboration areas and phone rooms aren’t close by, they’re unlikely to get used. Rather than travelling to another floor, employees will make do where they are—potentially enduring a distraction or becoming one to others.

Activity-based work prioritizes the worker’s autonomy, which builds trust and accountability between employees and leadership. It also promotes a feeling of control. Though seating choice may seem small, it creates a sense of ownership over personal process.

Strive for balance

The end goal doesn’t have to be exclusively unassigned workstations. For a smoother transition, introduce a few more flex spaces in addition to traditional assigned desks. While some people enjoy the ownership that comes with a private space, others crave variety in their work day and want a different environment to get certain tasks done.

It may sound counterintuitive, but people are more engaged and loyal to an organization that works this way. Why?

When people have greater choice about how and where they work, they are empowered to choose the space that is most productive for the task at hand.

Up next: Top workplace tip #3: Stay flexible
Go back: Top workplace tip #1: Design an effective open office

Or read ahead and download the full eBook on the top workplace trends to try.
In it you’ll discover the reasons behind rapid workplace change, plus an in-depth look at all six strategies for planning a productive office.

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About the author

JLL Staff Reporter, Behind-the-scenes
A team passionate about delivering valuable content and tools about workplace to help you deliver the best experience to your employees.

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