The epic journey of activity-based working

IT solutions, human behaviour and workspaces. Mix these with your business goals, a clear change orientation and a large portion of trust, and you have embarked on the epic journey of activity-based working. Tour guide Louis Lhoest of Veldhoen+Company explains what to expect.


In 1995, Eric Veldhoen wrote the book The Demise of the Office. Since then, nothing has been the same for Veldhoen – nor for thousands of office workers around the world. This was the starting point for Veldhoen+Company, the Netherlands-based, market-leading consultants on activity-based working – one of today’s buzzwords in office management.

Louis Lhoest, a partner in the firm, is in charge of international market development. He says activity-based working is now mainstream in the Netherlands and is attracting great interest in large global companies like Microsoft, Volvo Car and Rabobank.

“But it is not a ready-made solution or a quick fix”, he stresses, when asked to explain activity-based working in three sentences. “It’s a process-oriented approach to using the work environment as an instrument for change in an organisation. The activities are the basic element of analysis. The journey you go on leads to the solution.”


What actually is activity based working? This video explains it all.


Not open-plan spaces

Louis Lhoest continues his explanation of what activity-based working is not: “Most people think it’s a kind of flexible working where you share desks and so on. That is only part of the solution. And it’s not synonymous with open-plan spaces. It’s a variety of choices that make the workplace fit for everyone.”

“The key in activity-based working”, explains Louis Lhoest, “is to focus on what you are and what you really want to achieve in terms of change. Then you translate this into a set of guiding principles for how you want to work. This can in turn be translated into guidelines for the design of the office, the IT solutions, and how we behave.”


Sharing is the consequence

The starting point is to ask how the organisation can support individual employees in their different activities and tasks during the workday. This will lead to a variety of available spaces and tools, which will enable the employees to make different choices, making them more mobile in the office. This will in turn create scope for sharing desks, tools and spaces. “Sharing is the consequence, not the starting point.”

What Louis Lhoest is actually saying is that this is about change management, not about designing an office. “The point is that you use the momentum when creating a new office to accelerate and support the change you want. Most organisations are very limited by the place where they are working.”


Acoustics are key

That said, Louis Lhoest is very clear when it comes to factors such as acoustics, light lighting, air quality and temperature. "If you don't invest in these prime factors, don't invest at all. Acoustics are key," he stresses.

“Time and again, people fail to put enough effort into getting the acoustics right. Acoustics affect our behaviour and our productivity. The office design and the IT are the enablers.”
Louis Lhoest - Veldhoen+Company

The philosophy of Veldhoen+Company is founded on trust. “Give people more guidelines and fewer rules. Trust is the key element, together with letting people make their own choices. Treat people like adults. That is the key to success.”


Text: Lars Wirtén
Images: Aline Lessner



 This article is from the magazine ECO for Sustainable Design - Office edition. If you enjoyed it and want more similar articles, read the full magazine online or download it to your iPad or Android tablet for a more interactive experience.  

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Frans Davidsson

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Contact us


Frans Davidsson

Central Concept Developer - Office

Send an email to Frans>>