What is Agile Working?
One of the many working methodologies gaining popularity as companies strategize the future for their workspace, agile working is a much used but little understood phrase. While terms such as flexible working, hybrid working, remote working, agile working and activity-based working (AWB) are all often used interchangeably, all have their own distinct meaning and purpose, though there tends to be a lot of overlap.
The Agile Organisation say that “Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).” Making your people accountable for the results rather than the method is a huge paradigm shift that requires a transformation in both the culture and workspace of companies.
Central to the agile working methodology is the belief that work is a thing, not a place. Work has transitioned from being a location to an activity – an activity that can be carried out both in the office, at home, or somewhere completely different. This means the workspace needs to adapt to its new role. No longer is it a place where all your people come every day to work on everything they are doing. They can subordinate their location to their task, choosing a location based on what they are doing.
The 4 Dimensions of Agile Working
There are 4 dimensions of agile working that all need to be considered carefully in order to implement agile working at your company.
The time element of agile working is all about “when” people work. Rather than being required to work 9 to 5, employees have the flexibility to work when best suits, leading to better work-life balance and wellbeing. Some organisations have even reframed the focus from hours worked to work produced shifting the emphasis from inputs to outputs, which creates more meaningful accountability within teams.
Often referred to as flexible working, the location dimension considers the “where” of working. This includes not only the wider considerations of remote/flexible/hybrid working – whether your people are working from the office, home or a “third space”. Location also includes where people work within your space- whether in private, semi-private, or collaborative environments. Both of these have a significant part to play in effectively implementing agile working, as only when your staff have the ability to work in different locations that suit their changing needs can they be considered agile workers.
Role is the “what” of agile working. In the knowledge worker age, the idea of an employee spending all day every day sitting at a desk doing the same tasks is obsolete. Agile working empowers your people to have greater control of the “what” rather than showing up and doing work they are not accountable for.
The most important of the 4 dimensions, the source aspect of agile working centres on the “who”. The complexity of many organisations means many staff are working with multiple different teams (both internal and external) on different projects. Effective management of the sources your people are using, both in terms of teams and platforms will ensure that agile working is successful for your company.
Along with the four traditional dimensions, a fifth element, the “why” is also integral to implementing agile working. Agile working involves giving your people a lot more control over how they work in order to free them from unnecessary restriction and focus on performing at a higher level. If your people cannot connect their work to a meaningful vision and purpose, their greater freedom and empowerment will be squandered, lead to lower levels of motivation and productivity.
Implementing Agile Working
Embracing agile working means far more than refurbishing your office. It involves thinking holistically about the way you and your people work now and will work in the future, across time, location, role, and source, as well as the wider considerations of purpose and culture. Many employees equate the company with the office, and as the spatial embodiment of your company, your workspace has a central role to play in implementing agile working.
By considering how your people will work while outside of your office as well as in it, you can gain a complete understanding of what your people are looking for within your workspace, and design your workspace around their needs. This will lead to higher levels of engagement and wellbeing, enabling your teams to perform in the best possible way for your business.
While completely unique to you and your people, an agile workspace will contain a range of different working environments, including private, semi-private and collaborative zones. Technology is also central to agile working. Integrated hardware and software, along with BYOD technology to ensure a seamless experience for your people.
Agile Working: The Future
Agile working is better defined but what it isn't than by what it is, and there is no one universally accepted definition or version of it. Just as every organisation and individual is different, agile working will have different meanings and impacts for both companies and staff at the individual level. Considering the whole employee and client experience, whether physical, digital or hybrid is central to agile working. Agile working gives your people the control where, when and how they choose to maximise their performance, ultimately delivering the best possible value to your company.
Simply buying new furniture or laptops will not create an agile working philosophy at your company. Creating a culture that supports and embraces the concept of agile working is essential to the success of any implementation. The ultimate goal of agile working is to create a more responsive, effective workforce that can drive your company toward your vision and goals. In the post-pandemic competitive environment, this is only possible through ensuring the wellbeing and motivation of your teams to create meaningful solutions for clients in a shifting marketplace.
As we move into an uncertain and exciting future, it is clear that the way we work has changed completely. You need to ensure your office is optimised for the world of hybrid working. Explore why and how your office will change in the future, and how to prepare for it.
Want to know more about agile working? Book a call with one of our workspace experts today about agile working. Our consultancy helps you understand your office and your people, collecting measurable and cultural insights for your business. Our service is scalable to meet your requirements, timescales and budget. We can help you ensure an agile, optimised workspace with more productive people.