Which is the best office design for you? Activity-based or open plan

Did you know that 70 percent of offices in the United States use the open office design, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA)? In recent years there has been a rise in critiques about the open office plan; this has led to the emergence of a new design – the activity-based plan.

The open office design eliminates barriers between employees’ working spaces, promoting more interaction among workers, leading to positive collaboration. And with collaboration comes productivity. Tech giants such as Facebook and Google are trendsetters to open office design. They have tried both the designs and even integrated them at some point. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of these two plans to help you make the best choice for your office.

Activity-based work layouts

The main difference between an open office and an activity-based (ABW) is employees’ wide choice. ABWs are generally more flexible and versatile, unlike open offices. Rather than forcing employees to one open space, the activity-based plan accommodates multiple environments, with rooms tailored to particular activities. They have options like:

  • Phonebooth areas for confidential calls
  • Isolation areas free from distraction
  • Socializing and relaxation areas to relieve pressure from work

Benefits of ABW Layout

Empowers employees. The ABW encourages employees to choose what works for them; thus, this plan accommodates all employees regardless of their personal needs. The feeling of being able to decide for yourself motivates employees to increase their productivity.

Facilitates an ergonomic office. A comfortable working space enables employees to be more productive in the company or business. When sharing working stations, it isn’t easy to incorporate different chairs or desks because people have other preferences. When your office plan includes various rooms and spaces, it offers multiple options for your employees to choose where to use. Some rooms might contain standing desks, while relaxation rooms might have comfortable coaches.

This plan does not have many disadvantages, but it can be costly to implement because of the various office furniture required.

Open plan design

As the name signifies, open offices are open spaces with no distinct partitions or rooms. Employees share workspaces rather than being divided into rooms.

Benefits of Open Plan Design

Promotes collaboration. Open plan encourages employees to consult each other quickly hence bringing beneficial cooperation. Teamwork is a vital tool in an organization; your design should encourage your employees to bombard each other with ideas and strategies when the need arises.

Facilitates innovation. Colleagues can gather input to their work quickly without having to schedule meetings or conferences. This sharing of ideas leads to better productivity as each employee has unique skills from the other.

It’s affordable to establish and maintain. Because it does not require the construction of several walls, it’s a cheap plan to build. It saves energy costs as it reduces heating, cooling, and electricity thanks to the improved flow of light and air.

Sharing office equipment in an open plan saves on the cost of purchasing them for each employee.

The plan facilitates easier layout change. In case any adjustments are required, for example, a team discussion, the plan can easily be altered to facilitate its success.


Here are some of the challenges facing open office plans.

Lack of privacy. The major disadvantage of the open-plan system is that privacy cannot be assured. This plan isn’t easy to have sensitive telephone conversations as each employee can also hear, computer screens will also be visible to everyone passing near your workstation.  This plan leads to a rise in work ethic issues as there is no confidentiality in legal or Human resource work.

Does not confer status. Employees of higher rank in the organization will always complain of this system because it does not grant them their hard-earned status.

Noise and distractions. The sound of office equipment or people walking around the office results in noise making it difficult for employees to focus. Lack of concentration can result in lower productivity in departments like finance or accounting.

As you can see, each office design has its benefits and downfalls. So whatever you choose to go with will depend on the productivity you are getting. Regardless of the office design you prefer, you will need to create a healthy working environment for your employees by having the right equipment. This starts by selecting the right furniture that will promote comfortability and productivity. Cubicle workstations are inevitably an important part of creating an office design that matches your needs and preferences. Visit a furniture vendor to learn about the best furniture for maintaining a healthy working environment.

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