The work environment is shifting rapidly, resulting in new challenges and opportunities for companies in the UK and around the world.
This evolution has seen an end to the traditional ways of working, as the landscape of work is redefined by advanced technologies, changing demographics, new societal values and rapid globalisation.
With buzz words like agile working, flexible working and activity-based working making headlines, we thought it might help to break each definition down and figure out what it all really means.
What is agile working?
Agile working is all about creating a flexible office and productive environment. By creating different working areas within the office, you can ensure your staff have the complete freedom and flexibility to work where they want, when they want.
Rather than forcing individuals to undertake all their work at one setting (usually a desk), agile working means allowing people to physically choose a work setting where it is most suitable for them to complete their task.
“Agile working is all about connecting processes, people and technology in order to create a dynamic workforce.”
- The agile workspace is designed to create flow from intense, focused work to impromptu meeting areas and formal meeting rooms, depending on the work an individual is undertaking.
- It allows flexibility in working style. This gives employers an exciting opportunity to influence how employees work in an enterprise workplace and to reduce real estate costs significantly.
- The true meaning of agile working is all about connecting processes, people and technology in order to create a dynamic workforce.
By providing a variety of areas where individual needs and collaboration can come together simultaneously, you can increase the productivity and performance of your business.
What are the benefits of agile working?
At a time when the office as we know it is rapidly changing, it’s becoming more and more important for businesses to embrace the advantages of the agile workplace.
The noise and lack of privacy in conventional offices have been found to have a negative impact on cognitive function, impair concentration levels and causes dissatisfaction.
Agile office designs take into account mental and physical health. Installing dedicated quiet zones provides people with an area so they can focus, encouraging people to move around the office and take the stairs instead of the lift.
With flexibility and productivity at its core, an agile workplace can bring huge benefits to your company, ensuring you continue to grow and evolve with the ever-changing office landscape and not get left behind.
Here are 5 key benefits of agile working, defined by our design experts.
1. Workplace Utilisation
Many companies are spending money on office space that is under-utilised. The introduction of agile working results in a more cost-effective workplace in terms of office fit-out and occupational costs and can free up office space for other work purposes.
2. Attract and Retain the Best Talent
Take a look at exceptional companies such as Google, who have maintained an outstanding reputation as employers. Stimulating, agile workspaces have been created to show employees they are valued, and highly skilled staff have remained loyal, staying longer and performing better.
3. Be Greener and Smarter
Designing a new agile office brings the opportunity to create a greener and smarter office environment. This can greatly improve sustainability while reducing cost and a company’s carbon footprint.
4. Increased Productivity and Efficiency
It is vital to create an efficient and optimal working area where your team can feel energised and motivated. Not only can a great office refurbishment elevate productivity and morale, but it can also help to promote and reinforce a corporate identity.
But agile working environments promise much more than profit-making. When employees enjoy the office environment they are working in, they come into the office more regularly and stay with the company for longer.
5. Increased Innovation
Agile working is the key to increasing creativity and innovation within a workplace. An effective office layout can help to stimulate divergent levels of thinking by providing an environment that is conducive to employee needs, therefore keeping employees engaged at work.
A flexible physical working space also enables technology to adapt to the needs of the workers who use them.
According to some reports, 15% of millennials want an on-site gym in the workplace. Evidently, this is an extravagance many SME’s cannot entertain. However, with agile office design, there are other ways to encourage movement around the office.
Encouraging employees to use stairs instead of the lift, sit/stand chairs, social areas for physical activities, a walkable garden, bicycle stalls and bridges all contribute to physical exercise.
Examples of agile work environments
So-called ‘agile offices’ are geared towards the ideals of a modern workforce. They accommodate flexible working hours, feature adaptable furniture, foster collaboration, make best use of technology and put more emphasis on the health and wellbeing of employees.
A modern agile office, designed to facilitate agile working and encourage a free flow of people throughout the working space, will consist of:
- an open-plan layout
- low-level furniture
- flexible meeting areas
- standing desks
- breakout areas, where staff can relax and discuss ideas
- informal meeting areas
Unlike hot-desking, which is just a one function area being used by whoever gets their first, the definition of agile office design is to allow staff to use the most appropriate part of the office for whatever they are doing, and have the ability to move to another space when the focus of their work changes.
Agile work environments have already been adopted by BT, Google, BskyB and Unilever who value the measurable impact of this design on productivity, recruitment and retention, and in property cost savings.
Office Principles understand the meaning of agile working, and have created a variety of agile offices. Take a look at our case studies for agile workplace inspiration.
Does agile working reduce costs?
Many finance directors have been challenged to reduce premises overheads whilst accommodating an aggressive growth strategy. On the surface this could appear contradictory – surely if you reduce the premise footprint, the workforce must reduce too?
However, it is a known fact that 45% of office space is largely unoccupied. With staff either out and about at meetings or on annual leave, sick leave or training the chances are you never have 100% occupation in the office. Could your workplace not be better utilized?
Creating an agile workplace is a much more efficient use of space and resource’s and allows for greater flexibility for teams to adapt to their ever-changing business requirements.
There’s also evidence to support the theory that these spaces impact positively on rates of recruitment and retention as they’re more attractive to younger, high calibre workers who want to join a more vibrant business, with a diverse workforce, offering the most positive and productive working environment.
Another advantage is the notable boost in self-esteem for those employees who are afforded greater autonomy over their working habits. They can better fit other commitments around work and choose when to travel and when to work remotely.
The long-term expectation is that there will be better rates of staff productivity and a drop in absenteeism, which will impact positively on bottom line profits.
What is flexible working?
Perhaps the most significant shift from the traditional paradigm is flexible working. As millennials strive to incorporate a work-life balance, business owners need to find solutions to accommodate a modern workforce.
Agile working should not be confused with flexible working hours. The former focuses on creating a work environment that allows employees to work in different areas of the office that are specifically designed to enhance the job they are performing.
Flexible working, on the other hand, is a work pattern that allows employees to choose the hours and location they work to help them organise a work-life balance.
Flexible workspaces are about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology together, allowing for flexible working patterns and office space. It’s about letting people work from home if they need to, during the hours that work for them, and with the equipment they need to stay connected.
“80% of workers say that flexible working options are important to them.”
What are the benefits of flexible working?
A comprehensive report published by International Workplace Group reveals “flexible working matters.” According to 85% of the 15,000 respondents, flexible working has increased productivity.
Flexible working has also allowed companies to cut office costs and make better use of space. The flexible work schedule has also ushered an era of flexible office designs.
Finding the most appropriate and effective way of organising your office space into a flexible workspace environment allows your employees complete agility with access to a workspace that has been designed to include all the equipment and space they need, when they need it.
Numerous studies reveal that the environment in influences how effectively the brain works. Cognitive function defines performance. It’s therefore critical to design an environment that reflects your company culture and inspires individuals.
Open-plan layouts with integrated spaces for common use and private nooks, foster a connection between people, inspire individuals, promote creativity and enhance cognitive function.
Examples of flexible work environments
“One of the core principles is that a good worker is a smart worker who is able to work out new and innovative ways of doing things rather than performing the same tasks over and over again in the same style.”
To accommodate the shift towards flexible working, the design of the office becomes more dynamic. Companies moving into a small office space, for example, have to plan a design around a diversity of employees from different departments.
This requires a variety of spaces that cater to various work methods and individual preferences. It should enable desk-sharing, feature adjustable furniture and create space that fosters communication, creativity and innovation.
There are various ways of doing this; a cafe-like seating environment, comfortable settees in a casual area, recreational spaces, and versatile meeting rooms that facilitate presentations and conversations.
Bear in mind that the more ways people can use a single space, the more often it will be used. It’s therefore in your best interests to create several spaces that offer versatility to provide more options and avoid booking pile-ups.
Think about which tools people need to perform specific tasks, which technologies can you install to make workspaces more flexible and which currently underutilised spaces you can make more accessible.
What is activity-based working?
Activity-based working is a philosophy to make work more effective and efficient, but also more enjoyable for both the organisation and the employee.
This vision is realised by focusing on the employees and giving them the freedom (within boundaries) to decide for themselves how to work, where to work, when to work, the tools to use and with whom to collaborate to get their work done.
Activity-based working recognises that through the course of any day, people engage in many different activities and that they need different types of work settings to accommodate these activities.
“Generally speaking, fixed workplaces are actually used for only 50% of the time, and that’s a huge waste, not just in terms of square metres and sustainability, but also in operating costs.”
This mix of spaces and workstations in agile offices allows employees to undertake activity-based working, heading for quieter zones when there is a need and moving to shared spaces when it’s beneficial to work with certain sets of co-workers.
What are the benefits of activity-based work?
This style of working says goodbye to unnecessary rules and procedures, permanent workplaces and to rigid working hours.
Activity-Based Working promotes knowledge-sharing, faster and better collaboration and personal accountability. These aspects make work more enjoyable and more challenging – ultimately, improving productivity and professional service.
How can Office Principles help?
Our office interior design team work in tandem with you and your employees to fully understand the nature of the flexible, agile and activity-based office environment you want to produce.
We find that by focusing on the tasks and functions required in the working environment rather than the office space itself, the opportunity exists to replace the rigidity of the conventional office with a flexible workspace designed to encourage individual choice.