Agile Working: What, why, and how to make it happen

In recent years, an agile workplace has become even more beneficial, as COVID-19 has forced companies to evolve their thinking.

The agile working philosophy is that work is an activity, not a location or method.

It’s configuring people, technology, connectivity, innovation, time, and geography in the most effective way to complete a task. It’s removing the boundaries. Declaring how and where tasks are done is immaterial as long as tasks are completed. 

Output is prioritized over process, working hours, or locale. 

Agile working creates a team unhindered by geography, approach, or fixed processes. As a result, performance and productivity improve, employee and customer satisfaction soar, and your company becomes more attractive to top talent.

Agile working takes flexibility to a whole new level. While the location of workers defines remote working and hybrid teams, the agile way of working applies flexibility to everything.

That flexibility is the key to defining an agile workplace because there are no rules. Each organization reaches its own definition, but there are four areas that the agile approach makes flexible for employees:

  • Time – the hours they work
  • Location – the place of work
  • Role – their contribution to the work
  • Source – the tasks and teams they work with

It’s about crafting flexible workspaces to maximize productivity. Within the office, that means giving your team members the flexibility and freedom to work in the area that best suits the task at hand, rather than confining them to a set desk, specific room, or even a particular time of day.

An agile workplace creates a highly dynamic working environment.

It hinges on an office design that offers maximum flexibility and minimum constraints; how agile teams work depends entirely on the needs of the moment.

How agile teams work depends entirely on the needs of the moment.

Everything is connected through your people, processes, and technology to ensure the maximum flow of information, ideas, and activities.

What is the difference between Agile Working and Flexible Working?

The terms agile and flexible working are often interchangeable, and in the end, each workplace defines its strategy to suit its needs. But to many:

  • Flexible working focuses on the when and where people work.
  • Agile working incorporates the when and where, but also factors in the ‘how’.

That may mean time and place but can easily mean space, activity, people, technology, or approach. While flexible working gives your team the chance to change their hours or the location of their desk, agile working means never having to use a desk.

Not if you don’t want to.

Assigned seating is replaced with hot desking. Team meetings can take place on a collection of bean bags instead of around a conference room table.

What are the benefits of agile working?

The agile methodology takes the lessons learned from remote and hybrid working and fully realizes the potential of flexibility to empower employees.

Workers are keen to see companies prioritizing their health, individual choice, and wellbeing. With mental and physical health a core concern of agile workspaces, now is the perfect time to create more agility within your organization.

Increase workplace utilization

Under-utilized real estate is a significant drain on resources. Switching to an agile working model allows you to create more cost-effective workspaces by freeing up space otherwise dedicated for workstations (that may not be needed as much in the hybrid era).

Quality talent attraction and retention

Major brands like Google have created stellar agile workspaces that have earned them a reputation as quality employers, prompting top talent to apply eagerly. In addition, they create stimulating working environments that attract the best and ensure their talent retention rates are high.

The result is a highly-skilled, high-performing team of loyal, motivated individuals who stay with the company long-term.

Boost productivity and efficiency

Motivation is hard to come by and easily undermined. A liberated workplace that allows freedom of choice and creativity will energize your team, empowering them, boosting morale, and enhancing productivity.

Sparking innovation

The agile approach revolves around crafting your workplace environment to the needs of your employees and creating a layout that facilitates different ways of working and thinking. This boosts employee engagement and innovation by putting people in different situations and combinations.

In an agile working environment, workers who wouldn’t usually interact are suddenly in the same space. Teams who don’t generally collaborate suddenly converge. 

Sometimes, giving people physically different working practices is enough to change their thinking and spark new initiatives. 

Examples of agile work environments

The agile office is designed with purpose and tailored to the needs of the modern workforce. They’re created to be adaptable, to accommodate flex-time and hybrid teams. They feature moveable furniture that can be reconfigured on a whim. They incorporate the best and latest technology to facilitate collaboration and connectivity. And above all else, they prioritize the well-being and empowerment of your team.

Crafting a space that enables the free flow of people, tasks, and physical setup may sound like a challenge, but it’s easier with a few critical components than you might think. For example, an agile office will likely include:

  • An open-plan layout
  • Meeting areas with flexible configurations
  • Furniture designed for comfort and flow. Think low-level furniture
  • Informal meeting areas (i.e., clusters of bean bags or a snack bar surrounded by stools)
  • Standing desks and treadmills or cycling ‘fit desks’
  • Breakout areas comprised of comfy chairs or sofas

The agile office shouldn’t be confused with hot-desking. While hot desking can be a part of your agile working environment, it’s far more than a single, functional area that anyone can use. Instead, look at creating multiple areas with different functions and feels.

Workers should feel free to flow from one to another throughout the day, as needed. They may need time to brainstorm with team members, followed by focused time alone, followed by the chance for some exercise while they work. These short sprints in different office areas allow everyone to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of their bodies, tasks, mood, and the day.

Agile workplaces require agile thinking

Transforming your business into an agile working environment is a great way to empower your workforce, improve your productivity and process, elevate your brand, and increase your bottom line. Just remember, attitude is everything when it comes to agility. It’s about rapid adaptability, which doesn’t just apply to your employees.

To cultivate a genuinely agile workplace, company leaders need to adapt swiftly to the changing needs of their teams.

By caring for and accommodating their evolving views and desires of your people, you keep your business healthy and happy.

What works now may not in six months. Iteration is key.

When you’re agile, change is no longer a thing to fear but simply how you play the game.