What Is Activity-Based Working?

What Is Activity-Based Working?

In simple terms, activity-based working refers to providing employees with a location choice. This means that employees get to choose a location that is most suitable for them to work from. They do not have a designated workstation, but the workplace has several areas where they can do specific tasks like focusing, socialising, collaborating and learning.

Today’s workplace has been transformed by technologies like laptops and mobile phones. These have made workers more productive by freeing them from their desks. People can work from anywhere due to their ability to access information easily from the cloud.

Business models as we used to know them are also being disrupted today and new approaches geared towards making employees more flexible and productive are needed. Activity-based working is one of these business models that provide workers with options tailored to their needs.

The driving principle behind the activity-based workplace design is that offices should be flexible enough to adapt to the diverse tasks performed by employees. Traditionally, employees were assigned a single workstation. In the activity-based workplace, employees can move around depending on the task at hand. The flexibility is built into the company’s physical office through its culture, spaceplan, workspaces and furniture.

For example, an employee can start her morning with a brainstorming session at the coffee bar, then move to a conference room for a client meeting and then move to a more private workstation to make calls and work tasks that require extra focus.

In this case, she has no fixed desk and can move around freely to the area that provides the best environment for the activity she is handling. All she needs is her mobile phone, a laptop, and a company network.

What exactly does activity-based working bring to the table for both the company and the employees? Let’s see!

6 Undeniable Benefits of Activity-Based Working

  • Improves Collaboration and Communication

In an activity-based working environment, employees from different departments can easily collaborate on tasks and projects. This increases productivity and output since they are no longer tied to a desk all day.

Team members can seamlessly move around the workspace. In turn, this leads to better communication, easy sharing of ideas and more. This is the perfect setting for innovative ideas to be born.

  • Attracts and Retains Good Talent

Adopting a dynamic workplace helps engage staff, stakeholders, and visitors. You can attract the best talent by providing them with something that others don’t – unparalleled flexibility and freedom. Existing employees are also likely to stay if their workspace meets all their needs both personally and professionally.

  • Boosts Concentration

An activity-based office has workspaces designed for specific tasks. These can include focus group areas, collaborative zones, and quiet places.

Such spaces allow employees to be alone when they need to and to sit comfortably with their colleagues when team work matters the most. Everyone works differently. Some thrive in large crowds, others need to be alone to get their best work done. This is what activity-based working is all about.

  • Increases Productivity

Traditional offices have been designed for desk work and meetings only. But an activity-based workspace will allow employees to choose how they work, when and where. This recognition of the difference that makes every employee important empowers them to be responsible for their work and decide where they want to work from and when.

  • Builds Trust

Employees get a sense of ownership, which makes them build trust in the organisation and vice versa. This ultimately leads to company and brand loyalty.

  • Boosts Flexibility and Sustainability

Letting your employees choose where and when they work can help them balance their personal and work lives, which, in turn, can improve their overall wellbeing.

Activity-based working is the sustainable way to grow. Since it’s better at using office space than the working styles, it will help you save a lot of money on real estate. Plus, it reduces the company’s carbon footprint through cutting down on energy and supplies in the office.

Activity-based working also gives you the flexibility to incorporate custom office furniture. Get an interior design expert to recommend the right furniture to support your new working environment.
 

Activity based workplace design at Orchard Newcastle

Before you dismiss it as “a new trend that will never catch on”, let us tell you that activity-based working has been around for some time now. And it’s not going anywhere.

A lot of research has been done on this topic. It all proves that it has unlimited benefits for employers and employees alike.

Of course, activity-based working is not without its challenges. They have also been exhaustively researched and documented. Read on to find out how to overcome them.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent studies.

Research on Activity-Based Working

In a survey of 400 multinational companies, two-thirds of them were open to implementing the shared desk workplace by the year 2020.

Before jumping to it, a lot of companies wanted to learn their employees’ take on the matter.

A recently published study tried to find out if 1000 Australian employees were okay with shared desk environments. Some of the challenges highlighted by the surveyed employees include distractions, increased distrust, negative relationships, uncooperative behavior, and a perceived distrust of supervisors in terms of support.

Another report on hot desking, which shares the activity-based workspace principle, identified challenges like indifference, marginalisation of employees, loss of identity, decreased commitment from organisations, and inattention to co-workers.

However, let’s take a look at the broader picture.

The activity-based workspace design provides different work settings for various activities like private work, meetings, collaborations, creativity, and concentration. The employees are, therefore, expected to make switches between the settings when necessary.

When asked how they feel about a new concept, most people shy away at first. This is why it’s important to test out an office setting before committing to it. Or, better yet, to make the change gradually.

Companies like Facebook and Google are at the forefront of innovation in this field. They adopted activity-based working “before it was cool” and never looked back.

Why?

Well, the reasons are numerous.

To begin with, in hot desking, employees share desks or find one when they need it. This caters well especially to employees who work outside the office often. Another plus side of using hot desking is that there are hot-desking apps available to help in the booking of space before arriving at the office.

In today's smart offices, hot desking applications such as the app marketed by iOt Space now enables employees to choose and book their desks in advance. This app helps avoid the confusion that could arise in case two people want to sit at the same desk. The apps help one find an available desk and they also navigate you to the desk with no delay, especially if you are visiting the office from out of town.

Office layout showing workspace occupancy

This way, some of the challenges that the studies above found are simply non-existent.

Positive research, however, has shown that employees who have self-contained work processes and who view themselves as independent and mobile thrive in activity-based work environments. They can therefore easily choose a workstation based on their preferences or needs. Another positive is that they can avoid social interaction when they need a quiet space to work from.

Its supporters say that the main reason companies implement activity-based working environments is to attract and retain talent. They also wish to take care of their employees’ sustainability and wellbeing while increasing innovation and collaboration.

Based on the various research findings discussed above, we can conclude that there is no one size fits all solution. Activity-based work and hot desking will increase collaboration, efficiency, and communication but it will come with its own challenges.  

Of course, any challenge can be surmounted. Since every company is unique and has unique needs, you shouldn’t necessarily base your decision on research done on other companies.

You can use such reports as a way to get started. Afterwards, you should consider your own circumstances.

Factors You Should Consider Before Implement Activity-Based Working

Think about it this way: the way people work changes throughout their life. It’s only natural that they can accommodate (and even expect) an evolution of their working environment.

During the school years, everyone knew a certain space was dedicated for a certain activity. There was no in-between. For example, the music room for music, the gym for sports and the laboratory for science.

When they got into a university, they had the choice to either get the group work done under a tree, at the café, or in the library. A traditional workspace may therefore not work for them. Organisations have no choice but to embrace these new ways of working if they want to retain and attract new talent.

Before making the change, however, employers have to consider some important factors including:

  • What Are the Reasons for the Change?

Why do you want to implement activity-based working? Are you doing it because everyone else is? Do you feel like your peeps could benefit from more interaction?

Activity-based working encourages collaboration and therefore your business can easily pull a team from different departments in your organization to work on a project if everyone is mobile. Employees are different, and this difference is what makes activity-based working a good model.

Those who require isolation can work at their own stations while those who thrive in a noisy work environment can also do their thing. It encourages responsibility. More importantly, employees are treated as adults who can choose an environment that makes them productive.

Before making the decision, consider your employees. Ask them how they feel about it.

  • Make Sure Your C-Suite Supports the Move

If they do, then they will offer you support and advocate for the chance by leading by example. Otherwise, everything may be doomed from the start.

If your employees see that C-level execs never step foot in the common workspace, they will feel discriminated and treated as less important.

Of course, we all know that C-level execs need privacy. But they also need to be among their team every once in a while, don’t they?

  • Choose the Best Model for Your Team

As previously mentioned, there is no one size fits all when it comes to designing your office. Do a thorough research on the different models available and then choose one that suits your organisation’s needs. Obiously you can ask the workplace consultants here at Amos Beech for help.

  • Take Change Management Seriously

As you invest in this move, make sure your employees are educated on why the move is necessary, the benefits of the move, what will be changing, and why this particular model has been chosen. Use an effective communication plan that will involve different mediums and engage employees at all the levels of the organization.

  • Test Drive before Purchasing

Test whether the change will be effective using a pilot workspace. This is an effective change tool because, from it, you can tell whether the move will benefit the company or not.

The pilot will also be a learning phase that will help you tailor a suitable working model as per your needs. Plus, it will help the employees warm up to the new way of doing things and how it will eventually affect them.

  • Don’t Be Discouraged by Negativity

Change is hard and some of your employees will not be thrilled by it. Learn from them but do not let them bring you down.

  • Recruit the Right People and Rid the Company of Paper

Activity-based working can enable you to manage all your records electronically. This will reduce your carbon footprint and turn you into a more desirable employer and business partner for your clients.

Also, make sure you recruit leaders with skills and expertise in activity-based working so they can help other employees easily adapt to the new move. Safeguard your investment by choosing the right people to handle it.

Final Thoughts

According to a case study by UK’s HR Magazine on Atlas Copco’s introduction of activity-based working at their UK office, the exercise proved to be successful.

The company implemented a cockpit for individuals needing privacy, a larger cabin that allowed for small groups to work together, and an open space furnished with multiple desks. This gave them a digital workspace that can be reconfigured whenever the needs of an employee change. The employees are now more connected and engaged since their working conditions have changed for the better.

Activity-based working benefits may not be felt immediately, but they are broader and long-term. And if they are properly executed, they can foster the wellness of the employees by improving their mental, physical, and social wellbeing.

Got 4 minutes?

Go and watch a really great video! Veldhoen + Company have created a great animation about what Activity Based Working is and what it isn't:

Most important takeaway:

"Whats really needed is a workplace tailored to the actual needs of people.”

52 Trees for Life thanks to MNM Developments and Tours by Locals

52 Trees for Life thanks to MNM Developments and Tours by Locals

When we were discussing the introduction of the launch of our new branding early in 2017, the idea came up to video the planting of Amos Beech ‘trees’ on various locations in Scotland. The locations that we choose were those where you normally would have to go through lengthy planning applications, only to discover to end up nowhere:

It was then that somebody here in the office mentioned the Trees For Life project. Trees For Life plants trees in The Caledonian Forest. Trees for Life helps nature to restore in the Scottish Highlands and helps people reconnect with their spirit, with hope and with the land.

Trees for Life

The Caledonian Forest once covered a large part of the Highlands as extensive stands of majestic Scots pines, interspersed with birch, rowan, juniper and aspen trees. It was the UK's equivalent of the rainforest but has been reduced to just a tiny fraction of its former range. Most of the surviving forests now consist of old trees reaching the end of their lifespan.

In 2008 Trees for Life purchased the Dundreggan Estate, an area of 10,000 acres of wild land near Loch Ness to establish a major forest restoration programme. To date the conservation volunteering charity have planted over 1.6 million trees!

(A film by The Big Picture, a non-profit social enterprise founded by a group of professional photographers, filmmakers, writers, designers and educators, motivated by the need to rebuild healthy ecosystems where wildlife and people flourish.)

Amos Beech contributed 474 trees to date.

Under the slogan ‘every little helps’, we here Amos Beech started our own grove in August 2017 and are proud to have recently added 52 trees for MNM Developments and Tours by Locals.

MNM Developments

MNM develop high-value, luxury properties that respect and enhance their surroundings and have a minimal environmental footprint. We designed and fitted out their 1846 sq ft of new office space in Leith Edinburgh.

Michaela Teague receives the certificate for 24 trees.

Tours by Locals

Tours by Locals brings local people with their knowledge and expertise together with travelers who are looking for an authentic cultural experience. We designed and fitted out their 2153 sq ft of new office space in Glasgow.

Paul Melhus, CEO and Founder of Tours By Locals, receives the tree certificate (28 trees) from Kit-Har McLaughlin, interior designer @Amos_Beech, during a great office opening party in January 2019.

More trees to come!

Unsurprisingly, the tree planting scheme is very well received by our clients and we feel well doing it, so also this year we will be planting 13 trees per 1000 sq ft of interior design, office fit-out and furniture project.

But did you know that you can contribute yourself?

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy

HW Energy are a progressive and dynamic company who design and install bio-mass heating systems for their clients all over the UK.  Of particular note though, is their office location – sitting under the north west slopes of Britains highest mountain – Ben Nevis and conveniently close to Aonach Mor where you can take a Gondola ride up the mountain. 

HW Energy purpose built their offices 10 years ago and the intervening years have seen their workforce grow which meant that the office space had been altered bit by bit over the years too.  The result’s left a lot to be desired and did not use the available space very efficiently and with more staff joining, they knew that a refurbishment was required.

Sit stand desking and seating for HW Energy in Fort William

Amos Beech were asked to visit and were more than happy to, given that the initial visit was during what proved to be an amazing summer and a lovely day out of the office was enjoyed by Vincent and Sam

Over a few weeks and some inevitable bumps and hurdles over budgets and layouts, HWE chose to order sit/stand desking for all their staff along with the Viasit Drumback task chair. The new layout has transformed the space and now feels a lot more airy and less cluttered than it did previously. 

Upgrades to flooring throughout the space have been carried out and the Amos Beech team will be on site again soon to complete the refurbishment of their break-out space.  So look out for the update and we may well include some pictures of Ben Nevis in the springtime!

Design consultancy and furniture specification

Design consultancy and furniture specification

The young, fun and vibrant creative company Sunshine Communications moved offices to future proof themselves for further team growth and increase their ability of creative outputs. So what is a better place to move to than Commercial Quay in Leith Edinburgh? Commercial Quay lies at the heart of the popular shore area of Leith and has a mix of cafés, bars and restaurants. 

Commercial Quay in Leith Edinburgh

Our design team worked closely with Sunshine Communications to provide a fit out and soft furniture items that meet tight budgets, functionality and aesthetics. A space full of colour and plants, a home away from home.

Design consultancy and furniture specification Sunshine Communications Edinburgh 

As you enter into the workspace, you're greeted by a neon pink side profile face - illuminating the essence of Sunshine Communication, a talking head. Social by nature, social by trade – they gain traction with everyone they work with. 

The geometric shapes painted in soft pastels add interest to the back wall. The paints used in the scheme are from Craig & Rose, the oldest independent paint manufacture in the UK, a nod to their origins on Leith Walks. The colours echo Sunshine Communications branding without being overpowering to the entirety of the space. As the office is also a working photography studio, we had to consider colour balance.

 For the meeting room, we needed to create privacy but also wanted to make a statement. The dichroic film is beautiful, constantly reflecting shifting colours and radiance depending on the perspective of the viewer. Inside we placed a large brass conical base table that balances a glass top to contrast from the pink velvet seats sat below.  

And to continue the velvet, we placed two green velvet sofas facing each other as an informal meeting space with plant pots on stands help to separate it from the open workspace as well as adding biophilia.

And of course featuring in their offices: “Sunshine on Leith”, the Scottish musical film directed by Dexter Fletcher featuring songs by The Proclaimers:

For more inspiration click here:

and here:

Design & text: Flora Hogg.

Interior Photography: Architectural Photographer Edinburgh.

A new office and furniture for Help Musicians Glasgow

A new office and furniture for Help Musicians Glasgow

“Good things come in small packages”

You don’t need to be doing a major refurbishment when you come to Amos Beech for advice. This was demonstrated earlier this year when Help Musicians UK approached us to provide interior design ideas and costs to refurbish a small office that they had taken a lease on in the Briggait, Glasgow.

A new office with new office furniture for Help Musicians at the Briggait in Glasgow

The Briggait, in Glasgow’s Merchant City was built in 1873 and was once the city’s fish market.  It now houses creative and cultural organisations including workspaces for artists, so the choice of location for the leading UK charity for musicians, seemed perfect.

The size of the unit was only 387.5 sq ft but the charity had a need to create an environment that offered desk space for their Scottish staff, as well as a hot desking area for visiting staff and a small breakout area.  Importantly, the office area had to reflect the branding of HMUK , in particular their logo and colour scheme.

The interior design team here at Amos Beech worked closely with HMUK’s London based Operations Officer and produced interior design schemes which included furniture layouts and colour suggestions for flooring and fabrics which kept in line with the brand guidelines. Also taken in to consideration was the need for AV facilities to allow for video conferencing.

The building itself being over 100 years old comes with high ceilings and beautiful tall windows. However, this feature challenged us in terms of acoustics and so we suggested ceiling hung acoustic panels again in the strong brand colours, which helps in some way to absorb sound.

What has been created is small and concise but really packs a punch and the just demonstrates that no matter how big or small your project is, the team here at Amos Beech can deliver.

For more projects click here:

Date of publication: October 24th 2018

Text: Lesley McKerral

Photography: Interior Photographer Glasgow

For other blogs see below:

42 new trees planted thanks to Scotland Food and Drink

42 new trees planted thanks to Scotland Food and Drink

Today we were lucky enough to join the board of Scotland Food And Drink for lunch in their newly fitted out offices at Ratho Park Edinburgh.

The Scottish food and drink industry has become the best performing industry in Scotland, worth today about £14 billion. No surprise to us as we were enjoying the great tasting sandwiches from Patti & Jules, a recent addition to Edinburgh's catering scene. Obviously our experiences with the Scottish delicatessens don’t stop there.

So you could say that Scotland Food and Drink and Amos Beech were natural partners for their move to their new offices. Chief Executive, James Withers described the tremendous difference the new office layout made to their office life. The open plan space with plenty of natural light has a positive influence on internal communication. Facilities like a spacious boardroom, meeting spaces, break out area’s and hot desking make the new offices suddenly attract employees that previously preferred to work from home. As well as that the space is now more in line with their culture and branding, so now a perfect place to invite and meet people as well.

Corporate social Responsibility

What we didn’t know was that the chair of Scotland Food and Drink, Dennis Overton, lives close to Glen Affric and he has been following the great work of Trees For Live since it’s inception.

As part of Amos Beech’s Corporate Social Responsibility we plant 13 trees per 1000 SqFt of refurbished office space. In the case of Scotland Food and Drink’s new offices that equates to 42 trees!

Operations director Roy James hands over the Trees for Life certificate to Dennis Overton, chairman of Scotland Food and Drink

This brings the number of trees in our grove up to a total of 244 and there is more to come!

You can plant trees yourself!

We encourage you to plant trees yourself. You can add trees to our grove via the link under the image below or you can start your own grove. Why not consider giving somebody a dedicated tree? Planting a tree is a special gift for any occasion. It's the perfect way to celebrate an event or remember a loved one.

When you order your Tree via Trees for Life, a native tree will be planted for you by Trees for Life in the Scottish Highlands, creating a home for wildlife and forests for the future as well as improving the quality of the air we breathe every day.

If you click on the image above you will get to The Amos Beech Trees For Life grove

If you click on the image above you will get to The Amos Beech Trees For Life grove

A bigger forest and more wildlife thanks to Axon Cable!

A bigger forest and more wildlife thanks to Axon Cable!

Axon Cable had their offices refurbished and re-furnished. Their 6146 Sq Ft office space now equates to 80 new trees to be planted in the Caledonian forest!

80 new trees to be planted in the Caledonian forest

Axon Cable has been committed to meeting environmental challenges for a number years now. Just like Amos Beech, Axon complies to ISO 14001, a standard to help organisations create an effective Environmental Management System (EMS), to benchmark the environmental performance (energy use, recycling rate and waste created). Axon also already complies to the new ISO 45001 Health and Safety standard which is set to replace OHSAS 18001, the standard that Amos Beech currently complies to.

In 2017, Axon recycled the equivalent of 43 tons of steel. By enhancing the value of 27 tons of cartons in 2017, Axon' saved 460 trees.
The company also invested in a machine which transforms cartons into material for packaging.

Now by using Amos Beech as their interior design and office fit out company they haven’t saved trees but actually planted 80 of them!

Patricia Weir holding the certificate

To see their new interiors, click on the image below:

But more importantly, you can plan trees yourself!

For only £6 per tree you can contribute to the new forest which will be a home for wildlife and an adsorbent of CO2 as well.

Every tree helps so go for it:

Our Grove in the Scottish Highlands has just grown by the size of The Mackenzie School of English's new space!

Our Grove in the Scottish Highlands has just grown by the size of The Mackenzie School of English's new space!

Just imagine, that is 9000 SqFt of native Scottish trees! The trees such as Scots Pine, Rowan, dwarf Birch and Aspen will help to transform the open hillsides into healthy young woodland, rich in wildlife such as red squirrel, black grouse, capercaillie and wood ant! 

Thanks to The Mackenzie School of English an additional 117 new native trees will be planted in the wild Caledonian Forest in the Amos Beech grove of trees with all the wonderful wildlife that will inhabit their new environment.

The Mackenzie School of English moved in to their new space in Leith, Edinburgh in the first week of May.

As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, we have started our own grove in partnership with the award-winning charity Trees for Life. Trees for Life works on the restoration of Scotland's ancient Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands.

You can plant trees yourself!

Like it?

Well, you don't necessarily have to redesign and fit our your space with us to achieve this, because you can plant trees yourself!

Have a look at the Amos Beech Trees for Life grove:

SALONE DEL MOBILE . MILANO 2018

SALONE DEL MOBILE . MILANO 2018

As Clerkenwell is fast approaching, it’s only appropriate I write my review on Salone de Mobile and Fuorisalone to compare findings and inspiration for the year ahead. The design trip was last minute; a now or never opportunity regarding 2018 so I was grateful to join the wave of people that jet set from every corner of the globe.  

SALONE DEL MOBILE . MILANO 2018

With the flood of designers, exhibitors and creatives, accommodation was initially a slight struggle with business owners and money makers hitching up prices almost quadruple the price. However, I managed to book an apartment with a beautiful terrace in the Tortorna District of Milan. If your time is limited, I would recommend staying in Tortona as it is one of the more highly concentrated areas of ‘Fuorisalone’ crammed with exhibitions, cafes and events. The Brera district is very similar in this respect too, if not more so. But to really see as much as possible, confirmed as the world’s largest furniture furniture and design fair, Salone del Mobile at Rho Fiera is a must. Although, it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of displays and multiple halls, so be sure to make note prior of the exhibitors you’d like to see.

From an overall viewpoint, I noticed there was less of a focus placed on new product launches but rather exhibitors making a conscious effort to create memorable experiences, in fact very shareable as well. Particularly in the age of the selfie, mirrors and reflective surfaces was a prevalent player performing as a disruption to the spatial realm generating paradoxical type arrangements.  COS supported the work of the California-based artist Philip K. Smith to bring ‘Open Sky’ an installation to Palazzo Isimbardi. That comprised of a series of mirrored panels each tilted at a 47-degree angle, which respectfully gave a nod to the experience, the architecture and Milan itself.

Continuing the theatrical-like illusion, the emergence of larger-than-life translucent and see-through products that act as a divider in any setting, a flexible alternative to facilitates our everchanging needs and wants. One of the most magical experiences was visiting HAY at Palazzo Clerici, the location oozed with historical features poetically juxtaposed with a series of installation that conveyed examples of past and future living scenarios; with a human-centric approach to interior design, rather than focusing on the structure. The Rayures modular screen in fluted glass for Glass Italia designed by the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec was a notable highlight. A recurring expression of drama also took the form of translucent floor to ceiling draperies, which would add a show-stopping, yet fluid and soft tactile feature to any environment. 

Many pieces of furniture acquired the shape of an exaggerated figure with plumper silhouettes, inflated curves and ballooned proportions. The Tacchini exhibition was a great example of softness and the continuing fluidity in mix of dusty pink, pastel yellow and off-set geometrics, all adding to the cocooning type feeling prevailed. I had taken a similar emotional response to CC-Tapis, especially the rug designed by Patricia Urquiola with the comparable tonal colour composition and a hyper tactile surface.

The integration of biophilia within products, exhibitions, and displays experience remained strong throughout Salone de Mobile and Fuorisalone, the recognition of the well-being benefits of biophilic design as reached a global scale, and the outlook being the trend is here to stay. The miniforms collection plays with shape and form to provide a seamless stand to place your plants, whether be it on the wall, floor or reflecting against a mirror. A perfect opportunity to add height and interest to any environment.

As well as nature, designers are looking up to the skies for inspiration as they explore the symbolism of the sun, moon, and space. This could be due to increasing cultural interest in spirituality, which can be seen to inform objects and settings to ignite people’s wonder and delight through magical and cosmic-like shapes. Equally, many exhibitions featured the use mismatching of materiality, furniture shapes, and products through styling, which also envelopes a similar unusual sense of awe due to the unexpected and uncanny (a.k.a the googly eyes).

Milan took me through an unexpected and unimaginable journey, I didn’t know what to expect. With just over 48 hours in the city, I consumed an incredible amount of design, good food, some wine and walked around 40km. Even now it’s still taking some time to digest everything I saw and experienced. 

A blog post by Flora Hogg