LifeStyle, Popular

January 22, 2013

Activity Based Working

Have you heard of how Activity Based Working (ABW) is being used to increase productivity, save money and so much more? 

Well we’re going to explain this phenomenon that has already been adopted by lots of organisations and by the end of this three day info-mail, you’ll know what it is and which benefits it could bring to you and your company.

Most people are familiar with the term “hot desking”. ABW takes the concept a step further, in that it seeks to provide people with almost complete freedom as to how, when and where they work.

Far-fetched?  Read on.

How it works in practice is that there are no assigned workstations which straight away brings to mind real estate savings. However, to look at it only in this context would be looking at the tip of the iceberg. In this three-day info-mail, we take a look beyond the tip.

So what does an ABW office look like? It can look like anything you want it to. It’s the principles of anywhere working that are fundamental, in order to gain the benefits.  And the principle is very simple – enabling people to work from anywhere (technically this can be in or outside “the office”) which sounds scarier than it actually is.

In reality an ABW office can be a new build like Maquarie Bank Sydney. Equally it could be a scaling down of space or doing away with office premises completely.  And the pay-offs are for both employer and employee as we’ll seek to demonstrate.

We can all see that work is becoming a function not a place. More than ever before our work follows us home and wherever we are.

Gone are the days that emails could only be read and sent from within the walls of your company’s office. Today people read and respond to emails from their smart phones and tablets and laptops wherever they happen to be!  Sounds familiar?

The workplace of today

Right now departments are in the same building but are often working in isolation away from each other and, more importantly, the management team are as well.  People are going to work, but when they get there, much of their time is spend in isolation in front of a PC, which beggars the question: why?

Desks are under-utilised. Did you know the average cost of running a desk for business in the UK is £12,000 a year and that they are only occupied around 52% of the time?

And yet meeting space is rarely available. Once again, why?

Outside the office, people have limited access to their business systems and normally have email only, or, at best, they are using older technology to access other company data (VPN) which is slow or means remembering to leave their work PC on.

The workplace of today

Two hundred years ago and since then, there has been a need to physically gather in an office to get things done and for the managers to manage (line of sight leadership). But now, in many cases, we don’t actually all need to be physically grouped together, every day, all day, in order to collaborate and achieve.

Travel is expensive, time-consuming and bad for the environment. Desk space and real estate is expensive. Further more, the line between work time and personal time is no longer clearly defined – a lot of us are life-slicers, and doing work from home or elsewhere is commonplace, as is doing personal stuff in so-called ‘office hours’. ABW is a way of working that responds more smartly to the technology age, the way we live, and the society that we live in.

But what’s in it for me or my organization?

Here are some of the measurable outcomes taken from various case studies on the adoption of ABW:


  • 71% of staff reported an increase in performance
  • 55% of staff reported being more productive
  • staff reported they have better access to managers & work colleagues
  • sick leave decreased from 9% to 2.5%


  • 50% less space reported
  • 33% less construction & equipment costs
  • cleaning & maintenance costs reduced

Company culture

  • 90% reported an increase in collaboration
  • A reported increase in camaraderie & collegiality
  • Improved staff satisfaction
  • 93% said they wouldn’t go back to old way of working


  • 50% power saving
  • 50% water saving
  • 36% paper saving

How can you work from anywhere on any device at any time (the so-called “any any any”)?

Well, until recently the technology to enable this was only within reach of the big corporates, who had the large amounts of money and appetite to set it all up.

However, this technology is now within reach of small companies too – they just don’t know it yet.

It’s called a Hosted desktop which means you can access, edit, indeed do everything you would normally do with your office machine, just that you can do it from any device, anywhere.

Yes, literally any device that has an internet connection: iPad, Macbook, home PC, you name it!

That must be expensive, you think.  Actually the opposite.  There is no expensive IT equipment to buy and no flashy software, no need for a server even.  No more worry about backups, upgrades, virus protection, licenses.  As this is all done for you. And charged on a per user per month basis.  And nothing new to learn or train your staff on.

As we said before, your office machine experience just as you know it – delivered to wherever you are.

The exciting thing is that that whether you are a large corporation or a small start up, this technology is now there for all. So whether it’s SAP, CAD (yes, we said CAD!!!) or just your Microsoft programs and shared company folders, think how accessing this stuff and working on it from anywhere could transform your work lives, your staff’s productivity and fruitfulness, and ultimately your business.

So, back to ABW (Activity Based Working – in case you forgot that acronym). Remember all those benefits from yesterday? Why wouldn’t you do it? What’s stopping that move from the Industrial Revolution way of working that just doesn’t make sense any more?

If you’re ready to consider this and would like cost comparisons on the technology or like to speak to an ABW expert, then please feel free to leave your comment below or contact us.

Jo Radcliffe

Jo Radcliffe

Co-Founder of 404 team Ltd who is passionate about bringing colour, clarity and budget-ability to businesses' experience of IT.

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