A recent survey of more 100 corporate real estate and facilities executives found that 70 percent of respondents said that they expect to incorporate “activity-based workplace design” into their businesses, and most of those interviewed also said they anticipate a reduction in square footage per employee.

These are among some of the findings pointed out in a recent report by CBRE, "Managing Global Corporate Real Estate and Facilities."

Activity-based workplace design, or ABW, is an emerging trend in office design that allows for flexible, transparent and collaborative spaces, while increasing productivity and remaining cost-effective.

"Modern technology has allowed for more mobility and flexibility so that work is now considered a thing you do instead of simply a place you go. The activity-based working environment is an innovative workplace with a variety of options that adhere to the employee’s need for individual, uninterrupted work or collaborative teamwork," Office Central says. "The allure of this approach to work is that employees are given the freedom to work in the way that best fits the activity they have at hand, based on their own particular needs."

Likewise, organizations that have successfully implemented it have rendered results, such as decreased overheads like rent, paper-usage, electricity and energy by substituting uneconomical cubicles with Wi-Fi enabled workstations.

Additionally, such office spaces might consist of huddle rooms; small and large conference rooms with Wi-Fi and multimedia capabilities; focus rooms for private activities, one-on-one discussions, conference calls or phone conversations; stand-up workstations to reduce occupational sedentary time; workstations made up of adjustable desks that can be lowered or raised; and "unassigned" spaces that are available for people who are out of the office the majority of the day, visiting employees from other branches, or guests.

Per the report, the global leaders who contributed to the findings oversee combined real estate portfolios of more than 1 billion square feet worldwide. Other findings include pointing out that the most common corporate real estate and facilities (CRE&F) reporting line is to the CFO (according to 49 percent of respondents); formal client relationship management (CRM) and business unit portfolio planning are established practices that will command increasing focus (as noted by 75 percent of respondents); and 72 percent of survey respondents said they are both building greater strategic capabilities to align with business and driving greater collaboration with key functional partners as part of current innovative and transformational activities.

"CRE&F has steadily evolved over the past several decades to become a widely recognized profession with the potential to make significant contributions to corporate performance," said Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of consulting for CBRE’s global workplace solutions business, said in a statement. "Our goal is to help bring to the forefront the real estate and facilities practices that enable competitive advantage and shareholder value for our clients."

In the traditional office setting, a hierarchy usually is established in regard to the size and privacy of offices whereas ABW environments are more transparent with fewer walls and internal barriers.

There are more glass partitions. Offices are less private, and accessible to everyone, allowing staff to have more access to management, who are no longer behind closed doors.

Technology is changing how, why and where tasks are performed. For example, paper was one of the biggest obstacles in evolving from the traditional desk, but cloud computing means paper no longer has to be stowed in desks or personal spaces, and mobile devices have eliminated the need to be physically present in boardrooms or meetings.

The importance of face-to-face and collaborative interaction is one of the strongest forces driving office design today.

"The modern office has become a place to congregate, share knowledge and exchange ideas," Office Central points out. "Designing a functional, yet dynamic office is an effective strategy to secure your current personnel and attract new talent. Activity-based workplace design creates environments that are efficient, progressive, and more importantly, connected."