A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

The Party’s Over… Or is it?

Holistically approaching an office, based on a model that addresses the activity being undertaken, has seen the rise of Activity Based Working (ABW). But as a movement, is it here for a good time or a long time?

The Party’s Over… Or is it?


July 8th, 2013

The way we work has long been a topic of special interest to Indesign, in that time ABW has enjoyed its place in the sun.  It has been observed that the early adoption of productivity-improving practices, in an age where the existing methods were no longer germane, kept the creative sector from stagnation and companies with their heads above water in tough financial times; but recent rumblings have prompted the question: “Is the party over?”.


BHP Perth – an example of a recently completed project choosing to step away from the ABW model

Within the shifting landscape of the modern office, myriad hurdles emerge during the change-management process. Intense financial scrutiny is often applied to its implementation as well as an increase in the expectation of strong return, sooner; the result is further objection to ‘big thinking’ in favour of safe bets.

Are these demands from risk averse boards and their investors seeing the sun set on ABW or are we playing witness, front row, to the next phase in the ongoing evolution of the workplace?  The next chapter, in step with technological advancements and rapid social change?

BHP HASSELL ABW not implemented

BHP Perth – an example of a recently completed project choosing to step away from the ABW model

It might be argued that Australia and Asia have lead the ABW charge, demonstrating a keen exploration and implementation of a more flexible working model. It’s adoption – in varying forms – by blue chip and bellwether business has almost seen it become de rigueur for any one considering overhauling their company – in both paradigm and practice.

As North American and European businesses look set to follow the Asia-Pacific example we now see suppliers of contract furnishings meeting this reshaping with new systems and direct to client services in place of outmoded, inflexible, conventional furniture offerings.


BHP Perth – an example of a recently completed project choosing to step away from the ABW model

Closer to home, we’re already seeing the pull away from these practices though.  Where open-plan and hot-desks were the buzzwords of a few years ago, we now see some companies returning to a new model that sits somewhere between ABW and the office of yesterday. Is this a reversion to more familiar, ‘safer’, customs and structures or is this a ‘new ABW’?

Rosemary Kirkby WorkLife Sydney Indesign

Rosemary Kirkby – Rosemary Kirkby & Associates

This August at WorkLife we will be putting the brakes on ABW, flipping the lid and taking a look under the bonnet. Is this working? Do we really understand ABW as a concept? Is ABW right for all businesses? Is this new office here to stay or are we lost in the flurry of the latest, fleeting fashion?

Stephen Minnett SydneyIndesign WorkLife futurespace

Stephen Minnet – futurespace

For anyone working in contract design (or anyone who has ever worked in an office for that matter), “Who Is Afraid of ABW – Is The Party Over?” is a must-attend event at Sydney Indesign.  We invite you to join thought leaders Matthew Blain, Rosemary Kirkby, Stephen Minnet and moderator Owen Lynch in a discussion at The Indesign Podium at Galleria.

Registrations are now open. 




INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed