Reality Based Working

An article by Lara Stancich, Workplace Strategy and Design Specialist.

Imagine living in a world where once you packed up your desk for the day, you met your family for dinner, had a nice meal together then headed off to a locker to collect your sleeping bags and pillows before finding a suitable cubicle to bed down for the night.

Indeed, neighbourhoods wouldn’t look like they do now. Instead you’d have a choice of several spaces - suitable for families, singles, couples and even pets - and you’d have to compete for that space with other neighbours. It’s no surprise that the thought of having to bunk down in a different hotel each night, with no certainty as to where you’d rest your head, isn’t exactly utopia. It’s a concept that modern-day homely humans would struggle to embrace.

This of course is an extreme view of Activity Based Working (ABW), but funnily enough, it represents how a lot of people feel about it.  Rather than focusing on the benefits of ABW, such as choice of settings, improved collaboration and greater control over when, how and where they work, many staff fix instead on the loss of personal space.

A recent review by Leesman of ABW environments suggests there is good reason for this: 71% of staff in ABW organisations still remain largely sedentary, making little or no use of alternative work settings, and worryingly, see a drop in productivity of about 6% (compared to productivity of people in organisations with fixed desks).

On the other hand, staff who do fully engage with the ABW ‘ecosytem’ see a dramatic 23% improvement in productivity, compared to traditional static workplaces. Moreover, staff tend to be more engaged with the business, its values and have a sense of pride both for the company and its environment. They love their work environment.  So why do they remain a minority, and what is preventing everyone else from embracing ABW and reaping the potentially huge benefits?

Here at STACK, we believe it comes down to the old adage “one size does not fit all”. 

Indeed, the evolution of the office has seen a gradual shift from traditional silo-ed and hierarchical cultures – most often accompanied by cellular or individual office layouts – to flatter, networked cultures. The latter are often expressed in office design through the adoption of open-space, ABW or flexible working.

Recent years have seen the development of ABW and Co-Working as new ways of working. Along with Flexible working (most often expressed as working from home, or remote working), these modes are gradually replacing the previously dominant Open Plan office. But why adopt only one approach? What is right for your organisation may be a combination of approaches.

IBM has been in the press recently, following its announcement that it is shifting from a mainly remote workforce, to requiring large numbers to come back to the office. The rationale here is that the company needs more innovation, and innovation happens better when people are face-to-face and working together physically. But does it need to be everyone, all the time?

The aim of many companies today is to select a workstyle that aligns with their overall strategy and culture.  It is also necessary to remember that within the organisation are a range of workstyles and needs, influenced by the primary functions and complexity of work being done by staff, as well as their own personalities. Just choosing one approach to organizing the workspace risks alienating as many staff as it benefits.

STACK is a firm believer that the best approach to designing a workspace for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, is to view it through the lens of Reality Based Working. 

Reality Based Working takes all the best lessons from past workstyles, combined with a deep understanding of a client’s strategy and business needs, the culture, and the diversity within the organisation, and develops a unique solution best suited to that client. Reality Based Working delivers what you need in order to develop and thrive. 

Reality Based Working is based on the idea that Good Design is the key to creating a successful workspace. We recognise the importance of the workspace in representing the culture, values and purpose of the business; in attracting and retaining staff; and in driving innovation and growth.


(Image: MediaWorks)


Recent clients, including BDO (awarded Silver at the 2017 Best Awards), Maersk and Mediaworks have benefitted enormously from this Reality Based Working approach.  Rather than pushing one approach or the other on the client, our solutions for them were based on intense listening, understanding their needs and priorities, and developing solutions appropriate to the way staff need to work and interact with each other.


(Image: BDO)

For each of these clients, we’ve crafted a successful mix of settings that encourage flexibility and provide spaces to focus, meet and collaborate in a variety of ways.


(Image: Anderson Lloyd)


As the landscape of work continues to morph and adapt to changing needs, disruption and pace of innovation, defining and designing the workspace will continue to evolve in new and exciting ways.

At STACK, we call this Reality Based Working. 


If you have questions about Reality Based Working and how it could benefit your team and your workspace, please get in touch.











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