The Essential Guide To: Activity Based Working

Activity based work

The best way to think of activity-based working is in providing your employee the choice in where, when and how they work. We see it as an opportunity to boost employee productivity and innovation. Activity-based working recognizes that people perform better in differing environments. Therefore, removing physical work constraints, such as a desk and an office, provides greater flexibility for the employee.

This concept flies in the face of workspace concepts of the 1980s and earlier, where employees were expected to remain at their desks from 9-5, Monday through Friday. As an employee, your physical environment defined your company status. The technological revolution has gone a long way in redefining the workplace and blurred the boundaries. One's office can now extend from home, in cafes, on planes, trains, and cars – wherever you are on the move.

This ultimately results in the workspace needs of employees being greatly expanded; since everyone won't be in the building at the same time. Individual employees may work mornings, while others may dip in to refuel, socialize, relax or even exercise. For your staff to thrive, your workspace needs to reflect these changing dynamics.

 This post should be used as guide in your process in engineering a workspace that reflects the changing needs of your team, and caters to the individual needs and provides environments to boost employees’ morale, motivation, and productivity.

Planning the Re-design

Once the decision has been made to embrace activity-based working, a huge culture change will be taking place. Putting together a brief for staff and a subsequent action plan is key to proper execution. Our team can help you with this deployment plan.

 Whether you're changing locations or staying put, what is your reason for the change?  Are there workflow issues, personal objectives, a need to better reflect your culture and vision or a desire to refresh your surroundings, work smarter, retain your best people and attract new talent?

 Regardless of your reasons, you need to be able to convey them to staff and get them on board sooner than later. Once you get your team in the loop, they can advise areas for improvement and feel more empowered and receptive to change.  

Some Tips on Creating Your Brief

With your team in place, it's time to start thinking about your new activity-based workspace brief and understand how to divide up the space. This chart summarizes some of the most common activities that make up a cohesive workplace.


The workplace needs to have a variety of space conducive to these activities. Many can be used for more than one, but some, for example ‘focus’ requires somewhere quiet and not distracting.

Consider the visitor experience and how it will impact your team. How can you maximize the utility of your space?

For example, when creating a brainstorming space for your team, ask yourself if the space is designed to facilitate collaboration and the creative energy required for a successful brainstorming session.

Setting the correct environment, specific to the needs and desired output of the space, will ensure that you are creating a comfortable workplace for your team that maximizes their outcome.

(All photographs are of SDI Design projects)

Setting Employee Expectations

Integrating an activity-based work can bring challenges as well as benefits. It has the advantage of optimizing the performance of your team. However, you need to identify rules to be followed.

These expectations can include quiet zones, scheduling conference rooms, a clear desk policy, specified eating areas, and co-working spaces. Maps detailing the available facilities and resources are also useful.

To embrace activity-based working to its fullest extent, it's imperative to trust your workforce, give them choice and flexibility. Empower them to organize their work in a productive way which delivers results. If your workspace recognizes the differing personalities, needs and comfort zones of your workforce, you will have environments all will be happy to work and relax in.

Noam Hazan.jpg


Noam is the creative director of SDI Design.

Educated and trained as an Architect in London, England. Noam has also worked in London, New York and Toronto for well renowned Architecture practices such as Foster + Partners and Richard Meier. 

As a designer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Noam  founded a coworking space in North York which was recognised in Forbes, Blog TO and Toronto Life. in 2017 Noam was nominated by the City of Vaughan as a candidate for 40 under 40 in Canada for 2017.  

Noam regularly gives talks on office design and has had articles on the subject published. | Instagram | Linkedin