The Four Work Modes
HubSpot Video


When architects and designers mention Activity Workspace Design (ABW) they're referring to office space designed to accommodate a type of work activity or what we call work modes. This generally means there are open office spaces for collaboration, quiet spaces for focused work, and spaces designed to support impromptu and scheduled meetings. ABW works nicely with a hybrid workspace strategy, which can offer neighborhoods with free address systems giving their employees more choice while they're in the office. Choice is now the priority, as office workers are no longer tethered to one stationary assigned desk. Instead, they can let their tasks determine how and where they complete their work. So fundamental to understanding workspace design is understanding the four work modes, workers need to thrive in the workspace.


1. Focus: Get in the Zone

28% of a day is interruptions 

Interruptions consume roughly 28% of an employee's day. That adds up to one week of lost productivity a month or three months in a year. Help your workforce get into the zone by creating a designated space for focus.

Workspaces designed for focus give employees a haven to concentrate, contemplate and strategize. Distractions are minimized, delivering uncompromising peace and quiet.

Focus zones have evolved beyond cubicles. Now they take the form of a single phone room or small meeting rooms called enclaves. Open plan benching units, usually reserved for teaming environments, can now be tactfully partitioned with storage and variable privacy screens or mode.


2. Learning: Share your Secret Sauce

One of the greatest costs of the pandemic was the lack of learning in the workspace critical to the young employee development program being mentored by those who have the company tribal knowledge. It makes sense that the workspace supports this process. Educating all employees with the necessary information and skills to contribute, collaborate and create. Technology is often central to the spaces that enable learning to occur.

Access to power and data connects employees to tools and resources. Visual representation is key in learning environments, so whiteboards, tack boards, and visual display screens allow teams to literally show what they know. Learning environments are places of informal and formal sharing. They can be training rooms, break rooms, conference rooms, and lounge areas.


go together quote

3: Collaboration

Did you know that 82% of knowledge workers feel the need to partner up with others to get work done on a daily basis? The emerging workforce thrives in collaborative environments. Employees want environments that enable them to share ideas, tackle problems together, and co-create solutions.

Spaces that foster collaboration can be formal or informal. They can be open bench workstations that give employees the opportunity to collaborate all day long. Or enclaves in which teams can gather, huddle and share information, then disperse, both in and out of the office, and allow employees to make eye-to-eye contact.

4: Social: Welcome Home Social Butterflies

The social work mode is productivity powered by informal knowledge sharing. It allows employees to connect, learn and collaborate. Social spaces are crucial to the flexible, nimble workspace because they are most important to a thriving company culture. They provide opportunities for relationship-building and knowledge sharing. They are powered by empathy and respect, promoting the work environment in which your talent can thrive.

The social work mode can occur anywhere. Lounge seating allows employees to sit down and chat about a project or break rooms with comfortable seating are a perfect place to get some downtime and catch up with a coworker. And another way of saying it is to boost employee morale and engagement spaces should be designed to facilitate social encounters. They give rise to critical friendships.

Building a large open kitchen, boasting a bar or special machine encourages employees to stay and mingle instead of heading off-site for food and drink. Many of us credit caffeine as the fuel the genius. However, as Ted Speaker Steven Johnson explains, the value of coffeehouses lies not in the product that they serve, but in the space, it creates for great ideas to exchange and multiply.

We hope this review of the fundamental work modes gives planners the ability to work with functional aspects of the workspace when planning for a new office. So many offices are obsolete within months of movement, which is a result of not planning for the right work modes. Start workspace planning with how people work. We can create a flexible space that meets the work requirements while optimizing the investment made in office space.