What is an Agile Working Environment In 2022?
It’s a typical Thursday morning. A few employees have gathered together in a meeting room, getting ready to start a video call with their colleagues in a different time zone. Throughout the morning, others trickle in to meet with clients, have lunch together, and split off to work in quiet spaces where it’s easier to concentrate than it is in their homes.
Welcome to the age of the agile working environment.
An agile work environment gives employees the freedom and flexibility to work in different areas of an office when and how they choose. During times of lingering uncertainty as new COVID-19 variants emerge and employees re-evaluate what they want from their personal and professional lives, this flexibility that used to be a nice perk has now become an expectation.
Here’s a closer look at what the agile workplace looks like today.
Elements of an agile working environment
Flexible space strategies
Agile working means letting go of the traditional office space and embracing a completely different paradigm. It starts by viewing work as a dynamic set of activities instead of a fixed location. As more organizations embrace hybrid work that bridges the gaps between employees who work remotely and those who are in the office, they are rethinking the role of the office. It’s still an important hub for connection, but it’s no longer a place where employees need to be physically present each day.
A truly agile working environment should be a destination where employees choose to spend time for specific purposes.
Specifically, that means:
- Having the right mix of quiet, private space and collaborative space (also known as activity-based working, or ABW)
- Having a workplace design that can easily be adjusted as your workforce changes
- Supporting specific functions, such as company events, training, and mentoring
- Making it easy for employees to find and reserve space and resources
The three most popular agile environment options are activity-based working (ABW), office hoteling, and hot desking. While all these strategies eliminate assigned desks, each one does it a bit differently.
In an activity-based working(ABW) environment, employees can reserve rooms, equipment, and workspaces throughout the day, often moving from one place to another as their activities change.
Office hoteling allows employees to reserve a workspace before they arrive, assuring there will be a desk waiting for them. It gives employees a “home base” where they can spend time connecting with their colleagues while improving space utilization and reducing real estate costs for employers.
Implementing policies that give employees the freedom and flexibility to work where they can be most productive (such as a remote work policy) is key to making an agile work environment actually work.
This looks different for every organization. Some have implemented flexible hours, with designated times when employees are expected to be available but the freedom to start the day earlier and end earlier or work independently when they know they will be most productive.
Agile workplace technology
Even with the best intentions, flexible policies and flexible work hours won’t be sustainable if employees can’t easily collaborate. They shouldn’t have to spend half their morning searching for a colleague to get answers or trying to find a time when everyone on their project team is available to meet.
An agile working environment uses technology to connect everyone, whether they are in the office, at home, or halfway around the world. That includes:
- Communication and project management tools that promote asynchronous communication
- Mobile apps that make it easy for employees to find people, reserve workspaces or meeting rooms, and receive important announcements
- Cloud-based software employees and managers can access anywhere
- Occupancy sensors that provide data on how employees use the office so facilities managers and workplace leaders can make adjustments according to their needs
The benefits of an agile work environment
Although the majority of workplaces still have assigned seating, that’s changing fast as executives adapt to the needs of the hyper-connected, mobile workforce.
This more agile work environment has many benefits, including:
- Reducing real estate costs and facility management costs
- Making it easier to accommodate contract workers, consultants and new hires as companies grow
- Better collaboration and greater employee productivity
- Contributing to a more positive employee experience, which improves recruitment and retention
Ultimately, agile working creates an environment that allows employees to be as productive as possible. Sometimes that means having ample opportunities to bounce ideas off their coworkers; other times, it’s being able to work quietly without interruptions.
Having greater control over their work environment improves employee satisfaction. And happier employees tend to provide better customer service, resulting in longer client relationships and more reliable revenue streams.
How to successfully implement an agile work environment
Implementing an agile work environment isn’t a change that’s going to happen overnight.
Don’t be surprised if you run into some resistance, especially if you’re going to eliminate assigned seats. People can become attached to familiar spaces, but the bigger issue is often that they fear the unknown. They’re afraid of losing their connection to the colleagues they’re used to sitting next to every day. They might be afraid of losing face time with their manager (or losing accountability, if they’re managing others they don’t see as often.)
Here are a few tips for successfully implementing an agile work environment:
- Be open and honest about why your organization is making the change, what’s in it for employees and what challenges you’ll need to overcome.
- Start small. Rather than tearing down all your cubicles at once and declaring the end of assigned seats, try reorganizing workstations into department “clusters” and setting up designated areas for collaboration.
- Keep an open line of communication between the facility management, IT and HR departments.
- Make sure employees have an easy way to find people and places, reserve space, request service and stay connected to the tools they need to do their jobs, no matter where they happen to be working.
Shifting to an agile work environment may be an adjustment at first, but the potential to reduce costs and improve productivity make it well worth the effort.
The global marketplace is changing faster than most of us can keep up. Thanks to technology, the jobs of today will almost certainly be done differently tomorrow, and some may not even exist at all. Other jobs we haven’t even thought of yet may take their place.
An agile work environment ensures your company will be ready, no matter what happens next.
How agile is your workplace technology? Take this two-minute assessment to find out.