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Adapting to Agile Working: Challenges in the Workplace

The challenge is on for leaders to create lightweight, sustainable workplaces that adapt to fast-changing needs. Traditionally we’ve grown used to big office buildings set up for a fixed use, perhaps with cubicles, individual offices or an open plan layout. 

The workplace of the future can’t be so unwieldy. The penny has well and truly dropped that we need to cater for a wider range of preferences and encourage collaboration between diverse groups of people. That means flexible spaces that mix up different layouts. 

In other words, Activity Based Working (AWB): workplace design that optimizes the spaces for various tasks that employees are working on. Providing a variety of spaces and services to employees on-demand, from anywhere, is becoming the new normal. 

Our people expect to be able to book meeting rooms, desks, equipment, catering and more, wherever they are, 24/7. Agile working extends beyond the space itself, into the realms of workplace culture. It’s about giving people freedom to choose where and when they work. 

It’s a philosophy that focuses on results and giving individuals the flexibility they need to achieve them however they see fit.

Activity Based Working (ABW)

In an agile working environment you’ll typically find ABW. For instance you might have a video conferencing room equipped with all the latest kit, a brainstorming area with beanbags and whiteboards, a cafe for informal meetings, a boardroom for formal meetings and some private offices or booths where people can make calls in peace. 

You can also cater for personal preferences, like standing desks. The agile working philosophy hinges on allowing people greater autonomy than ever before. Dan Pink famously showed us that autonomy is one of three things that motivates humans, more so than money. 

The other two are mastery and purpose. Flexible working, where employees can choose to come in late and work late, or otherwise mix up their hours, is one way to increase autonomy. 

Working remotely is another, whether in public cafes, members’ clubs, shared office spaces, or at home. It’s no coincidence that organizations are focusing heavily on mastery too: up-skilling, learning-by-doing, creating learning cultures… and purpose: clarity of vision, values, beliefs, the power of ‘why’ that Simon Sinek describes so eloquently… 

Motivating your employees

The search is on for the optimum means of motivating our people to do the best work of their lives. All this while faced with a sharp rise in mental health problems that’s costing the global economy $1 trillion. 

Autonomous, agile cultures rely on trust, so recruiting the right people and supporting them with the tools and training they need to thrive is essential. 

Agile working is a big pull for top talent and improves retention, as smart people expect more freedom than ever before. Get it right and you can create a highly engaged workforce, while reducing real estate costs and operating more sustainably. 

Studies show that organizations can bring down the need for office space by up to 30% by adopting agile working practices. To make agile working succeed, organizations need to make sure the employee experience is seamless. 

Living in the cloud

Wherever and whenever people choose to work, they need secure access to files and the ability to book the spaces and things they need via the cloud. In the main, it’s not a technology challenge that work is facing today. It’s a human, psychology challenge. 

The technology exists and is relatively straightforward to implement. Humans, on the other hand, are far trickier and slower to change. This kind of culture shift isn’t such a big deal for startups and SMBs, but it’s a tall order for larger organizations transitioning from a traditional set-up. Facilities and HR play an important part in steering the oil tanker. 

Agile working is often confused with Activity Based Working (ABW). Agile working in the practice of increasing autonomy by enabling employees to work how, where and when they choose; whereas activity based working refers to the provision of different spaces in the workplace to enable this. 

In an ABW environment, people don’t have a fixed desk. Rather they hot-desk, choosing a desk each morning when they arrive at work, depending on what suits them that particular day. 

Some prefer office hoteling, where desks, rooms and other facilities can be booked in advance. By applying design thinking, you can work out which activity based areas employees need, then come up with creative solutions to test out, such as some spaces that encourage deep, uninterrupted focus and others than encourage planned serendipity, where ideas are sparked and relationships formed through chance meetings. 

An important consideration when designing a more agile workplace is understanding which platforms people should be able to book resources from, e.g. Outlook, touch screens, desk panels, meeting room displays and mobile apps (hint: it’s an omnichannel world, so the answer is ‘all of them’). Then there’s the question of how you’ll track data like utilization and no-shows – find out more here about how Smartway2 can help.



Last updated May 29, 2020