Workstyles of today call for balanced amenity of social & solo functions


For decades, the idea of privacy in a work environment often meant an enclosed office, usually allocated based on hierarchy or position. As real estate costs escalated and work practices evolved, the private office often became even more of a status symbol and open plan working proliferated, promising greater collaboration and transparency. Yet, despite the well-intentioned move to more open, unstructured workplaces, the basic human need for a balance of privacy & connection was largely ignored. Organisations commonly forget to adequately consider the psychological needs of their employees, which has led to disengagement, burnout, lack of productivity and staff turnover at epidemic proportions.

jeb-activity-based-working-01.jpgThere is no doubt the ability to share information, collaborate and generate new ideas is crucial to an organisation’s success. Significant effort has been made to create funky spaces, hire new talent, implement technology and offer team bonding sessions to maximise output.  Yet, despite this, many organisations are finding the opposite is happening. Too much interaction has taken a toll on employees and finding the right solution has proved difficult. 

Privacy is now being widely recognised as a fundamental necessity for all employees, not just those with a specific position. Just as employees need space for interaction and social activities, they need equal space and time to focus, detach and recharge.

The Activity Based Working approach aims to create the right balance of social, collaborative spaces and quiet, focus spaces. Real estate is carved up around the specific activities of an organisation and CRE budgets are spent on appropriate office furniture, technology and systems to support the needs of individual employees, teams and the business as a whole. This significant shift in workplace design has revolutionized the entire industry from furniture and finishes to technology, data gathering systems and HR policies.  In parallel with design and technology, business leaders are also focusing on encouraging appropriate behaviour and culture to ensure spaces and facilities are optimised. A Leesman study found “poor adoption of appropriate behaviour in activity based workplaces is a significant problem that limits widespread organisational benefits.”


Workplaces designed and managed around a strategic Activity-Based approach are often extremely successful in supporting the psychological and practical needs of employees. They tackle the issues of over-stimulation and overwhelm by providing an appropriate allocation of quiet, private space available to all employees. However, while Activity-Based Working environments offer control, it is ultimately up to individuals to limit distractions and stimuli, by managing interactions with technology and colleagues. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and organisations implementing ABW practices must recognise that privacy encompasses many different behaviours and needs.


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Tagged: office design, Activity Based Working

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