Hybrid work is poised to define the new era of work. A staggering 82 percent of company leaders plan to allow their employees to work in a hybrid way moving forward, according to research by Gartner.

But there’s a problem with how many leaders are adopting a very simplistic definition of hybrid work – based on the number of days that work happens inside the office or outside. For many leaders, hybrid work means two or three days of working in the office per week.

That’s a big missed opportunity. Hybrid work is more than creating a policy with a set number of remote days. More effective leaders understand that hybrid work is about fundamentally rethinking how their teams work. It’s about recognizing that not all people are equal and not all work is created equal.

Effective leaders are seizing the opportunity to rebuild work practices from the ground up by answering the questions of how people work and where they work from.

At OfficeRnD, after carefully analyzing how we work in the post-pandemic world, we realized that we need to rethink our hybrid work strategy.

As a result, we built a new office and implemented activity-based working based on neighborhoods and we’re loving it. Let’s dig into why activity-based working can be the answer to many of the hybrid work challenges.

What is Activity-based Working?

Activity-based working recognizes that people perform different tasks in their day-to-day work, and therefore need a variety of work settings to carry out these activities effectively.

Activity-based working is a way of working that encourages teams to connect, individuals to flourish and organizations to thrive. Simply put, an activity-based workplace is a flexible office where people have different options to work from that support a variety of tasks throughout the day.

For example, here’re the different types of work we enumerated when we built our hybrid work policy:

Hybrid Work at OfficeRnD

Then, we grouped them into two main categories:

  • Focused work (also skilled work) – we realized since the pandemic, people are doing more focused work, of course, due to spending more time at home. Although that’s great for productivity, it’s at the expense of strategic alignment!
  • Strategic work (oftentimes, collaborative work) – we also realized that since the pandemic, collaboration is reduced therefore we spend less time on strategic work and alignment.

As a result, when building our new offices, we wanted to plan for more collaborative spaces in the office. Our plan is to balance these two activities by assuming that a lot of the focused work will happen at home, and heavy collaboration and strategic work will happen in the office. That’s in large part because people prefer to do strategic work in the office.

These location-based preferences for focused and strategic work underscore the importance of not forcing a hybrid work policy that is anchored in a specific number of days. When you understand the types of work that your employees are doing, you can be thoughtful about just what hybrid looks like for your organization and start tracking hybrid KPIs.

How does activity-based working work?

Activity-based working is usually powered by technology! Following are some of the key elements that are making activity-based working possible and which many facility managers use.

  • Office neighborhoods – an area in the office that is built specifically for a certain type of work – activity, or dedicated to a team. Most of the time, activity-based working is organized in office neighborhoods.
  • Desk hoteling or hot desking. – oftentimes, you also need unassigned seating – whether that’s reservation-based (desk hoteling), or ad-hoc (hot desking) seating.

Although activity-based working can work both ways with desk hoteling and hot desking, we firmly believe that desk hoteling is the nicer option for your employees.

With desk hoteling, people assigned to a neighborhood can choose a desk upfront and reserve it for an hour, day, or week. For example, when we built our new office, we dedicated 80% of all seats available for desk hoteling and 20% for hot desking.

The hot desks are also important in cases you couldn’t or forgot to reserve a desk in advance in the neighborhoods. In these cases, you can rely on the very cool hot desk, collaborative area.

With the proper office hoteling software, they can also make the reservation recurring, see who else will be in the office beforehand, and come to the office stress-free.

In addition, check out our article on hot desking vs activity-based working to learn more.

The benefits of activity-based working

When done well, ABW can be very beneficial to your teams and increase productivity, efficiency, and collaboration.

1. Easier adoption of hybrid work

Switching to a hybrid work model can be very stressful. By evaluating your employees’ needs and building a tailored solution based on their activities, you can relieve all of that stress. It’s so much easier to come to and be productive in a space that’s built out for your personal work needs.

2. More opportunities to learn and collaborate

We commute to the office for one simple reason – community! In other words, we want to have face-to-face contact and work with other awesome people. Of course, sitting next to others is not a goal on its own. Just being around people won’t make magic overnight but in the long term, it helps us in so many ways.

For example, working closely with other professionals makes us better at what we do, helps us learn faster, grow faster, and advance our professional life faster.

We learn by osmosis, by absorbing the experience of other people. Also, working physically together helps us unlock our combined creativity and spark ideas that are otherwise so much more difficult to come by.

3. Increased productivity

Increased productivity is one of the many advantages of hybrid work.

Noise and distractions are two of the main objections against people coming back to the office. While that’s a reasonable critique, properly organized neighborhoods for focused work are an antidote to the issue.

Building out quiet neighborhoods for people who need secluded spaces is the solution to the noise and distractions problem. Tailored zones, in general, are the foundation of activity-based offices which are proven to massively increase productivity.

4. Improved space utilization

Activity-based working (and hybrid work as a whole), by definition, leads to 3 very important benefits:

  • You need less office space. For instance, you can easily get your 1000 employees into an office with 400 desks.
  • Your office space is utilized much better. Desk hoteling in particular leads to so much more efficient space usage.
  • You can also better organize and utilize your meeting spaces (which requires a better room scheduling system) according to your neighborhoods.

On that note, OfficeRnD Hybrid can help you easily implement a hybrid way of working and give you advanced analytics of how your space is used. As a result, you can manage your hybrid workspace and make data-driven decisions to improve its utilization with the right metrics in hand.

5. Higher employee buy-in for the hybrid work transition

If anything, COVID brought the topic of employee engagement to a whole new level. The Great Resignation is here and will cause many businesses to suffer serious losses. On the flip side, organizations that put people first will always be ahead of their competitors.

You can certainly make your employees much more engaged and happier with the move to hybrid by utilizing activity-based working. Besides setting up the right spaces, you can adopt an easy-to-use employee booking software that makes their office experience much smoother. For example, OfficeRnD Hybrid allows your employees to reserve desks in several ways – from within Microsoft Teams, through Outlook, Google Chrome, or Google Calendar, or with our Mobile app or Web portal.

How to get started?

Your very first step in implementing activity-based work should be a research project. Start by collecting as much data as you possibly can on how your employees work – everything from their current and future projects to their requirements for amenities, phone booths, quiet spaces, etc. Then, you should be able to segment the types of work your teams do and also categorize employees into groups or communities that can be translated into office neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods - Activity-based working

On paper, this process sounds easier than it actually is. In reality, this is a very complex undertaking, involving a lot of research, strategic meetings, and brainstorming. However, the results are more than worth it.

When you’re ready to start implementing your ideas, technology can make the transformation at least, a little simpler for everyone. For example, you can use OfficeRnD Hybrid’s floorplanning tool to quickly try different layouts and neighborhood arrangements.

Once your new office layout is ready, you continue the setup by:

  • Categorizing the right amenities for each activity zone;
  • Setting up booking policies, such as whether recurring bookings are allowed, or if limitations apply to some neighborhoods;

Lastly, when you’re done with the setup, your employees can easily book desks in the right areas based on the rules you’ve established. There’s no uncertainty in terms of desk or space availability. That reduces the risk of making bad mistakes.

If you want to see this process in action and implement hybrid work in your organization, signup for a free OfficeRnD Hybrid demo and consultation here!

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".