The Agile Workplace

Owing to rapid globalization and technological changes, the work environment is swiftly evolving. This evolution has of late taken the form of ‘Agile Working’. Agile working is concerned with creating flexible and efficient work environments.

Likewise, agile workplaces are defined as activity-based spaces. Activity-based offices serve a wide variety of purposes. Some of these include informal meeting areas, multimedia rooms, short-term activity areas, brainstorming corners and teamwork corners, snack and coffee bars in the breakout area, a library, as well as private spaces. This affords employees flexibility and autonomy.

During the course of the day, employees are engaged in different pursuits. An agile workplace design enables employees to engage in these activities in different work environments.

It tosses out the old-school notion of working in a single setting such as cubicles and replaces it with open space layouts, which converge towards efficiency and creativity.

The Benefits of Agile Workplaces

1. Increased productivity and creativity. An agile workspace is a key factor for success in the current environment. It significantly increases the productivity of employees. Agile workplaces encourage satisfaction and motivation and successively also inspire efficiency and productivity. Since it facilitates collaboration and ensures that employee needs are met, the agile office stimulates the members of the staff to come up with ideas that are divergent and innovative.

2. Gaining a competitive edge. With an agile office layout, employees have quick access to the various tools they need. This enables the business to achieve and maintain a competitive edge in the industry. When employees have autonomy and flexibility in their work environment, it brings about reduced response time and increased customer satisfaction.

3. Reduced costs. Participating in agile working practices not only increases productivity but also reduces many workforce-related costs. Firstly, it reduces real estate costs as numerous employees operate in that specific space. Secondly, it reduces turnover costs, as employees are less likely to be absent or exit the organization. Thirdly, various utility costs such as heating and electricity charges decline. Fourthly, costs related to fit-outs are decreased. Lastly, occupancy costs such as rent, insurance, and service charge to fall as a direct result of enabling an agile workplace.

4. Optimum utilization of space. Agile workplace designs have an open plan layout. Therefore, areas that were not being utilized before can now be employed for various work purposes. This supports optimum utilization of space as a resource. Hence, closed off areas such as cubicles are replaced with brainstorming areas, exercise areas, collaboration areas or various other activity based areas, where more people can work and interact.

5. Increased communication and collaboration. Being agile in the workplace increases chance encounters. The philosophy here is that chance meetings foster innovative ideas. An agile working environment nurtures communication and collaboration among employees who would not have otherwise happened upon each other. It provides an opportunity for professionals to interact with others from various fields and backgrounds. An agile workplace creates an environment that fosters inspiring discussions and clever teamwork. It empowers improved knowledge sharing and collaboration. Such an activity-based workplace that delivers a productive and creative workforce with an extensive network can have lasting benefits for your organization.

How to Set Up an Agile Workplace

Now that you know the benefits an agile office design, here are a few tips that may come handy if you are setting up an agile workplace.

1. Establish your objectives. Before you set out to implement agility in the workplace, you should confirm what purpose the workplace is going to fulfill. When it comes to an agile working design no one shoes fits all. Examine the aspirations of your organization and then determine the best system for you. Determine how many desks you will need and whether they will be independent or shared desks. Decide whether the goals are inclined more towards increasing productivity, creativity, and satisfaction or towards reducing costs. If your organizations objective is to increase efficiency, you might have more focus spaces, if it is created, you may increase the number of collaboration and inspirational areas and if it is satisfied, you might invest in comfortable furniture and hospitality services. Conversely, if the objective of your organization is to increase your workforce without investing in new spaces, you might utilize desks by sharing them.

2. Appoint a project champion. After understanding the needs of your staff and organization, you should choose a project champion. A champion will be the mediator between you and the design team. This way you won’t have to deal with the million decisions about fabric, color, texture, etc. and you can get on with your regular responsibilities. A champion should be someone with good organizational skills and a high commitment to the project.

3. Deal with change. You will experience a lot of hesitations and objections from various departments during the project. Every department will want their assignments and activities to take precedence. You will have to manage this change tactfully. A good strategy for dealing with change is to inform and educate the staff about the forthcoming modifications. Inform them about the benefits of such a transformation. You should also practice what you preach. When employees see leaders embrace the agile practices, they find these easier to assimilate.

4. Foster cooperation. Cooperation among employees is extremely important to the success of an agile workplace. You can encourage cooperation through a non-assigned seating format, where employees sit next to someone new every day. You can also increase collaboration by way of cafes, relaxation areas and exercise areas.

5. Implement technology. You will need to determine your technological requirements beforehand. Since agility involves freedom of movement and flexibility, portable devices for the employees may be a good idea. You will also need to determine whether you require a knowledge-sharing platform, where employees can connect with each other and share information and data either in the cloud or via an intranet.

6. Incorporate quiet spaces. Being agile in the workplace can be little frenzied at times. It is important that employees have access to quiet spaces at these times. Quiet spaces enable employees to focus and reflect on their ideas. A few employees may not be so satisfied with an agile workplace due to lack of personal space. They can use these quiet spaces, as per their needs, to get work done.

We hope these strategies will help you plan your agile workplace. When you do, come back here and tell us about it!

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