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What's What in the Workplace: Comparing Terms

Open office vs. Activity-based workplace


When people think of the broad term “open office” that’s the workplace that earned itself a bad rap and a ton of bad press. The “standard “open office” was created as an opposite reaction to cubicles and features no walls and uniform workstations. The open office was meant to break down the hierarchy associated with where people sat in the workplace as well as boost organic collaboration since people were physically and visibly available at all times during the day. Instead of promoting team work and transparency the open office is now known for being distracting, spreading germs easily, and not providing employees with a comfortable amount of privacy. It was a one-size-fits-all solution to a workforce of diverse people so naturally, it failed. 

While an activity based workplace typically is an “open office” it flipped the uniformity of its predecessor on its head. In an activity based workplace, employees are given a variety of workspace types outfitted to support different types of work. For example, in an ABW office you’ll see spaces like a quiet car area for heads down work, sit stand desks with music to hit a power stance and make calls, huddle zones for stand ups, plazas for town hall style meetings, and so on. This variety accounts for all the different tasks, work styles, personalities, preferences you’ll see from employees. With the right change management and guidelines, an activity based workplace gives employees new levels of flexibility and autonomy that are nearly impossible to achieve in a “traditional” open office.

Related Terms

ABWFlexible seating vs. Hot deskingFlexible work environment

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Everything You Need to Know About Activity-Based Work

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