Activity-based working, flexible working, or hybrid working: What’s the difference?

Office design and productivity

The workplace industry is constantly in flux and it can be challenging to keep up with the latest trends and topics. Activity-based working and flexible working have been around for some time, but hybrid working is quite a newcomer. Is there really any difference between them, or are they just different names for the same thing?

 In this blog post, we will go through the basics of each model and explain what separates them.

Activity-based working

 ABW is a business strategy that gives employees the freedom to choose where, when, and how they work depending on the requirements of the specific task. Spaces should be designed to provide opportunities for a range of workplace activities from focused and intense work, to informal meetings. Henrik Axell, Concept Manager at Kinnarps Next Office explains it like this:

“The activity-based way of working means that the office is designed after the activities that are taking place there.”

The baseline for ABW is that the office is designed to support the staff of a particular organisation. Therefore, no activity-based workplace looks the same.

Flexible working

Flexible working (or agile working) refers to the practice of letting employees work where they want, how they want, and when they want. It’s about letting the staff decide where they do their job the best. Some days it might be from the office, some days from home, or entirely remote.

How does it differ from ABW? Well, it both does and doesn’t. It’s not uncommon that companies that practice ABW also practice flexible working. What separates them is that flexible working doesn’t necessarily come with a workplace design. So, basically, ABW can be seen as a version of flexible working, but flexible working is not a version of ABW.

Hybrid working

Hybrid working is the rising star in the workplace industry! It became a thing during the Covid-19 pandemic when people started to work from home instead of the office. As things slowly go back to normal – employees will not return to the office full time. They instead prefer a hybrid model: working both from home and the office.

As with ABW and flexible working, hybrid working is a model that gives the employees the possibility to choose where they want to work. What’s specific with the hybrid working model is however the emphasis on having both a physical and a digital workplace. The core point is to give all employees – remote or not – the full workplace experience, regardless of where they do their work.

There are many more visions circulating around the world wide web, and most are joined in the belief that this transition will require changes in workplace design, technology, and culture.

To summarise, the three aren’t that unlike one another. All of them refer to some kind of flexible setup in terms of where and how you do your work.

This blog post written by Johanna Carlsson first appeared on meetio and can be read in full here.