What is ABW? If you do an Internet search on the term activity-based working (ABW), you will get lots of results and lots of different interpretations. You are also likely to find lots of alternative terms (lean office, agile working, smart working, etc.), which all refer, more or less, to the same ideas. For the sake of clarity, this guide will stick to activity-based working. Not the catchiest term, but it is widely used, and it relates directly to the following definition.Activity-based working (ABW): a way of working in which employees make shared use of a diversity of work settings that have been designed to support different kinds of activities. There are three crucial elements in this definition.WHAT IS NOT ABW?1Diversity There are a lot of misconceptions about ABW. The essence of an ABW office is that it provides users withSo here is an overview of what it is not:choice. Instead of the traditional binary model, in whichIt is not hot deskingpeople are stuck in either an open-plan or an enclosedHot-desking is only about the shared use of office, the ABW concept provides employees with adesks and not about empowering employees by giving them more choice about when and diversity of settings in terms of openness, furniture, size,where to work.technology and atmosphere. For example, a mix of regular workstations, phone booths, quiet areas, break areas,It is not an open plan officelounges and project spaces. At any time, people canAs the name implies, open-plan offices are just open. ABW is different in the sense that choose the setting that is right for them, depending on theirit provides a mix of both open and enclosed task, mood and personal preferences.workspaces, available to all. 2Sharing It is not interior design conceptThere is a strong design component to ABW, In an ABW office, everything is available to all, regardless ofas it usually requires new furniture and spatial their hierarchical or functional status in the organization.changes, but the concept is primarily about The logic behind this free seating approach is well known:organizational change.traditional workstations tend to be underutilized as peopleIt is not a cost cutting operationspend a large part of their working hours away from theirThe ABW concept will typically save money, deskin meetings, chatting at the water cooler, on thebut a one-sided focus on costs will not lead road, working from home. By sharing workspaces, itto success. The key objective should be to improve productivity by facilitating a diversity becomes possible to provide a greater diversity of settingsof office activities.while simultaneously saving square metres, which has both financial and environmental benefits. It is not a formulaABW projects tend have a lot in common, but ABW should not be seen as an off-the-peg solution. It is a concept that must be tailored to an organizations specific culture and activities.