The agile workplace: the definitive guide

Work has changed beyond almost all recognition in the past decade and organisations that were cutting edge five-years-ago can look as if they are stuck in the dark ages if they fail to keep up. In addition to working from home (WFH) and hybrid, the term agile workplace is now a commonly repeated buzzword but what does it mean?

The word ‘agile’ in the work context, used to refer to software development in the mid 1990s, but today, an agile workplace is one where flexibility is central to everything.

It’s a type of office where employers have access to multipurpose shared spaces that give them the freedom to work in the way they want to. It encourages productivity and collaboration while also supporting well-being. 

It wasn’t that long ago when the majority of employees went to an office each day where they had their own desks, drawers and cupboard space. That changed when the pandemic hit in 2020 and businesses realised that staff were just as productive when they were working from home.

As office space is at a premium and was a major cost for most organisations, it made sense to cut back. Working from home and hybrid working gave rise to the popularity of hot desking, where nobody has their own desk, they just jump on an available one and clear away their things at the end of the day. 

With an agile workplace, an organisation is using everything that has been learned from WFH and hybrid working and endeavours to provide staff with a range of spaces which enable them to be their most productive, i.e enable them to work in the way that best suits them. 

Today, an office isn’t just a place of work, it’s an ecosystem that has to adapt and flow according to those who use it to make sure that everybody is able to bring their best self to the day’s tasks. 

An agile workplace is one that encourages collaboration and creativity by bringing people together in one space, where they can feel comfortable and easily engage with other team members. 

There are no set rules for agile workspaces, other than the fact that they must give people the opportunity to be able to move between a range of different workspaces, styled for various ways of working. So for example, a member of staff might start the day in a collaborative space with other team members, then move into a more relaxed setting where they can do some research while sitting in an armchair, before relocating to a desk to write up a report. They might then switch to a quiet booth to make a series of phone calls. 

An agile work space should provide areas for team work and solo activities, where those who want to work without the interruption of other people’s phone calls and general office background noise can find quiet space where they won’t be interrupted. 

How do you create an agile workspace? 

Planning is imperative when creating an agile workspace. It’s not something you can implement quickly because it will necessitate change in the way in which your organisation works. 

It’s worth taking time over the design as the flow of spaces must work for the purposes they are assigned for. There’s no point placing noisy machinery such as photocopiers next to a space designated for quiet and relaxation for example.

Pay attention to furniture and the way in which it will be used, think about texture, colour, art work and providing greenery. If you can, visit some agile workspaces to see how they are arranged.

Before you make the switch, do the following:

  • Consult staff – for a successful agile workspace, you’ll need to work alongside your staff members as they are the ones who’ll be using it. Listen to any of their concerns and make sure you explain clearly why the move is happening. If the workspace doesn’t work for employees then it’s not going to benefit your organisation. Your first task should be to find out the biggest challenge your teams face when it comes to office space. Do they have trouble parking in the morning? Where is there friction? Once you find the pain points, you can address them with your agile workspace plan. 
  • Don’t rush the process  – the transition from a traditional to an agile workspace should ideally happen in small steps. Make minor adjustments to your workflow and gradually phase the new spaces into the general office layout. Make sure that each space works on every level before you move onto the next. 
  • Use tech to tie everything together  – make things as easy as you can for staff by using technology to ensure agile working is seamless. For example, it’s not difficult to enable staff to book a desk remotely and saves the stress of them rushing in and wondering if they’ll find somewhere to sit. The same tech can be used to book meeting rooms and other spaces within the office layout.
  • Buy modular furniture – investing in furniture that is able to shift to meet the different ways in which it is used is central to a flexible working environment. 

What kind of areas/rooms should an agile workspace include?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating an agile workspace, other than there should be a variety of different spaces that staff members can choose from freely.

Some ideas to consider are:

  • Open plan space – most agile workspaces offer an open plan area at their core. Such a space is vital for teams working together creatively, who need to brainstorm and share ideas. Research shows that noise is one of the most common complaints from those who work in an open plan office. However, if there are other, quiet spaces available, this no longer poses a problem.
  • Quiet zones – there are times when most staff feel the need to retreat somewhere quiet where they can get on with tasks without interruption. Sound-proofed booths are often used for this purpose. 
  • Relaxation zones – most staff appreciate a quiet space where they can retreat to, away from noise, to relax and enjoy a bit of headspace. 
  • Breakout spaces – a breakout space is usually a comfortable area where employees can congregate to chat, eat, have a tea break, etc. They should encourage lounging and while they are a place for relaxation, they can also provide space for collaboration. 
  • Resource space – a resource space is a designated area for equipment such as photocopiers, stationary, etc. It can also house recycling bins and means that people can use equipment without fear of noise pollution.
  • Touchdown area  – a touchdown area is a space where workers can quickly set up their laptop on a table and complete tasks quickly. They can be a workstation, a standing area or a booth.

What are the benefits of an agile workspace?

The benefits of an agile workspace include:

  • More collaboration – when people have the freedom to move around office space as they please, it can create pockets of collaboration, creativity and experimentation. It facilitates the sharing of ideas.
  • Better staff retention – 9 out of 10 millennials say that the ability to choose how, when and where they work is more important than salary. Offering an agile workspace increases your chances of attracting the most talented young workers.
  • Better use of space – before the pandemic, organisations wasted £billions on office space. An agile workspace optimises every inch of available space and ensures that all of it is used and not left to gather dust.
  • Job satisfaction – agile workspaces are important drivers when it comes to job satisfaction. They encourage employees to feel autonomous and trusted when it comes to managing their time and workload.
  • Increased productivity – the ability to remove yourself from a distracting environment enables you to increase productivity dramatically. An agile workspace provides places where workers can collaborate when they need to and space to get tasks done when they don’t.
  • A sense of community – with spaces that encourage teamwork and joyful collaboration, your business will benefit from a greater sense of community. 
  • Increased revenue  – a survey by ResumeBuilder found that 72% of companies reported an increase in revenue following a return to office policy post pandemic.

What types of organisations offer agile workspace?

It used to be the younger, cutting-edge firms like Google that offered agile workspace that millennials hankered after, but now, it’s a trend that’s growing across the board.

They are especially useful for any corporations that want to encourage teamwork and creativity. Design, software companies and sociable industries were early adopters, but now many corporations are jumping on the bandwagon and providing agile workspace.

How can we help? 

All our concierge office space is styled to suit your needs and we understand how work environments are changing. We have office spaces throughout London, including Farringdon, London Bridge, Tower Hill and Marble Arch. All our office spaces are well designed, offer a range of spaces from breakout areas and meeting rooms through to relaxing lounge areas and of course, and you benefit from our concierge service around the clock. Get in touch to see how we can help you create a flexible workspace that best suits the needs of your organisation. 

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