The aim for agile working is important now than ever before as people are currently working remotely. But what does this mean exactly? Read below for more details.
Despite being ubiquitous in development and office management, “agile” is a term with several different conflicting definitions. “Agile working” refers to neither agile development or agile project planning, both of which employ different methodologies to enable efficient and timely projects. No, agile working refers to a flexible and “agile” work schedule.
What is Agile Working?
What does a flexible work schedule have to do with office space and “agility”? A lot. Fully employing a flexible work schedule means embracing a more fluid office space that sees some employees working from home and some employees working from the office.
Rather than a chaotic hot desk philosophy or the strict and stringent rules of a traditional office, agile working policies require an office design that matches the flexibility of their worker’s schedules. This means having both open office spaces with plenty of collaborative furniture and a forward-thinking design (filled with sunlight, color, and plenty of nature), as well as closed-off and quiet private spaces for smaller teams and individual professionals to seek refuge from the social interactions of the rest of the office and get a solid hour or two of concentrated and focused work done.
Agile working, as a philosophy, aims to capitalize on the productivity research done of the last years. We know that workers can generally only concentrate on a single task for a short amount of time and that their productivity, creativity, and focus is improved by giving them the ability to interact with nature, daydream, and spend time with other workers, as exemplified by productivity and creativity gains seen in coworking spaces.
The Benefits of Flexible Working and Telecommuting
We know that flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities lead to happier workers, greater job fulfillment, lower turnover, more hours worked, and fewer breaks are taken.
By giving workers the option to work from home or the office, companies can also give their workers the freedom to choose their path toward productivity.
Better yet, opening to remote workers everywhere greatly increases the available talent pool. A company that has access to this reduces their costs and overhead by allowing them to cut down on office space and energy costs.
Flexible work schedules and a work-from-anywhere attitude is also greatly valued by workers everywhere, especially in a post-COVID-19 world where the value of telecommuting is more obvious than ever, and a study shows that nearly a half surveyed workers are willing to take a 10% paycheck cut to be able to work from home.
Remote work will only grow in prevalence and importance from here on out, but for many companies, the key doesn’t necessarily lie in going completely remote. Going 100% remote works out for many smaller businesses who don’t have the space to open up a physical office, but for other businesses with access to coworking spaces or office space of their own, adopting work-from-anywhere policies might be best instead.
Prioritize Quiet Spaces
When creating an open office, it’s important to balance the fine line between improvement and chaos. If there is no workspace available, workers can’t be productive. If they spend a considerable part of their morning finding a good place to start working, they’ll be wasting time.
Agile working offices need to be intuitive and must learn to blend open spaces with widely available private spaces. This is possible through remote work policies. More office space is freed up to those who prefer to work from the office rather than working from home.
Make sure to prioritize quiet spaces, such as smaller conference and meeting rooms or private offices, to give workers a space to retreat to when they cannot or do not want to be interrupted, and don’t have the time to entertain new ideas or conversations. These spaces should be available to workers who need to put into action what they’ve devised and talked about in open spaces.
Design for Open Collaboration
Collaborative furniture can help naturally bring workers together to discuss ideas and interact. Intersect collaborative furniture with natural elements to incorporate the restorative benefits of real nature and nature-inspired design, from indoor plants to a view over a park.
Workers should be naturally incentivized to cycle between the different areas of an office to work on ideation, brainstorming, planning, and execution – with each stage of development beginning and ending within the open and private spaces of the office.
The collaborative spaces are where this all begins, so they must be designed for comfort and productivity, with easy access to charging ports, plenty of tables and seats to provide space for every worker’s essential devices, and nearby planning spaces such as whiteboards, task boards, markers, and post-its.
Plan Ahead for the Incidental
Bigger companies can leverage an open design by creating spaces for departments to blend and interact. While marketing and production/development might be working on different floors, creating interactive spaces where workers are encouraged to take a break away from their offices (such as cafes, napping stations, and inter-department break rooms) allows for “incidental” collaboration, as workers from different stages of the business meet and talk about their gripes and ideas.
This is like the effect generated in coworking spaces, where professionals with different skillsets tend to come up with new or unique ideas via collaboration due to different backgrounds.
Compensating for the Cons
It’s no secret that there are many benefits to reap from giving workers greater freedoms and the ability to pitch more ideas and receive recognition for truly innovative concepts.
But there are certain drawbacks to remote working, the greatest of which is the lack of control over one’s work-life balance. Ironically, working from home often leads to a person having difficulties separating work from home. They begin to work longer hours and take fewer breaks because it becomes harder to “break out” of that mentality.
Workers may spike in productivity while working from home, but to keep that productivity going, companies need to help their workers better manage their time, by preparing them for a transition into working-from-home through at-home work schedules, encouraging downtimes (i.e. no calls after hours), and encouraging workers to take breaks in and out of the office, to go get some water, stretch often, or just grab some fresh air for a few minutes.
Offices might also encourage local remote workers to check in every few days, on days of their choosing, to keep workers from getting stuck in a rut, and to help combat a growing issue of loneliness. A stronger sense of community in and out of the office – enforced by a positive company culture for remote and non-remote workers – can help too.
Others manage their time more effectively, seeing the benefits of remote work without its cons – but for those who find themselves trapped in a working mentality, helping them create tangible boundaries between work and home while at home can help preserve a worker’s mental health and value in the long-term.
Agile working aims to capitalize on these facts by giving workers the ability to work from home, from coworking spaces, or the office – and adapting office spaces to mimic the open and collaborative nature of a coworking space.