Agile Working Is The New Reality. Are You Ready?

Forward-thinking business leaders have seen the value of agile working for years. Now, with many regions requiring all but essential.

Forward-thinking business leaders have seen the value of agile working for years. Now, with many regions requiring all but essential employees to work from home to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, agile practices have quickly evolved from trend to necessity.

Right now, your workforce may be primarily or even entirely remote, but when your office reopens, there’s a good chance at least some employees will continue to work at home more often. Rather than worrying about an office half-empty, you can see it as an office half-full—an opportunity to make the workplace better for everyone, even if they aren’t there every day.

If you’re thinking about making a more permanent transition to agile working, here are five employee concerns you’ll want to consider first.

What Is Agile Working?

Advanced Workplace Associates, a UK consulting group, has been helping organizations transition to agile working for the past three decades. They define agile working as “a spectrum of working arrangements that enable people to work when, how and where they like.”

Embracing agile working doesn’t just mean establishing an open-office floor plan or giving employees the option to work remotely. It requires employers to expand their definition of the workplace itself. They must recognize that it’s more than simply a physical location—it’s an ecosystem of employees connected by technology.

Successfully transitioning to agile working is fundamentally about good change management. It requires several key elements, including:

  • An agile workplace design that allows employees to work where they work best
  • Agile policies that provide guidance for where, when and how work happens
  • Management that supports and builds trust with employees
  • Agile workplace technology that makes it easy for employees to work anywhere

An agile work environment is flexible and can be easily adapted to meet the needs of the workforce. Examples of agile working include:

  • Activity-based working (ABW): Employees can select from a variety workspaces (such as private rooms, conference rooms and collaborative areas) and are invited to move freely between them throughout the day.
  • Hot desking: Employees choose from a set of unassigned workstations that are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are encouraged to regularly select different locations to encourage collaboration.
  • Hoteling: While similar to hot desking in that employees choose from a pool of available workstations, office hoteling requires employees to reserve a workspace prior to arriving at the office.

Agile working empowers employees by giving them access to the spaces, policies and technologies they need to collaborate with their colleagues, no matter where they’re working.

However, employers who take the wrong approach to implementing an agile work environment risk creating a poor employee experience that inhibits productivity and engagement instead of supporting it. Here are five employee concerns you need to address if you want to succeed with agile working.

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5 Questions Employees Will Have About Agile Working

Where will I put my belongings?

By eliminating assigned desks, you’re encouraging employees to be more active throughout the day. This creates more opportunities for spontaneous conversation and collaboration, which contribute to a positive workplace experience. However, eliminating assigned seating also means employees won’t have a dedicated desk to stash their belongings in during the day.

The Solution: Intelligent Lockers

Intelligent lockers are customizable electronic locker systems that employees can use to securely store their belongings, like backpacks, coats or gym bags. They’re perfect for agile work environments because they can be reserved, assigned and reassigned by any employee throughout the day. Because intelligent locker systems are customizable and modular, they can be configured and reconfigured to meet the changing needs of your organization.

How will I find a place to sit?

Not everyone arrives at the workplace at the same time every day. In agile work environments (particularly those with hot desking, which is first-come, first-served), employees who tend to start their days a little later won’t have access to as many workspace options as employees who arrive earlier. Additionally, if a traditionally early bird employee has a commitment that prevents them from coming in until after their usual arrival time, they may find their preferred area of the office already occupied. Failing to account for these scenarios means employees will have to spend valuable time searching for an available workstation.

Digital signage is a self-service technology that allows employees to view interactive maps of the workplace. When integrated with room reservation software, digital signage can be used by employees to find and instantly reserve available work spaces. Employers can install these digital displays at the entrance so employees can find and book a workstation as soon as they arrive. Plus, room reservation software can be connected to Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to ensure the status of work spaces is always up-to-date.

How will I find people on my team?

The average employee attends three meetings every day, so it’s entirely possible for two people who need to catch up quickly about an important matter to repeatedly miss opportunities to connect. In a traditional office environment, employees can at least leave important messages or mail on their colleague’s desk. In an agile work environment, the lack of permanent seating and permanent neighbors makes this more challenging.

Wayfinding kiosks are a specific type of digital signage that leverages integrations with your employee directory, room reservation software and IoT sensors to make it easy for employees to find their coworkers. They can search for their colleagues by name and easily find where they are working that day, along with directions to get there. This is especially helpful for organizations with multiple floors or buildings. As an added bonus, visitors and guests can use way finding kiosks to help them find employees, too.

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How can I minimize distractions?

One of the primary goals of agile working is to foster greater collaboration by breaking down barriers between employees and departments. However, because it makes everyone more accessible, it can also add to the interruptions and distractions your workforce experiences throughout the day.

Research shows the average employee in the modern workplace is interrupted every 12 minutes, and it takes them 23 minutes to refocus on their work each time.

For extroverted employees who thrive in energetic, boisterous settings, this may not be a significant problem. For introverted employees who prefer a quieter, more low-key environment, it can have a big impact on productivity.

Controlling office noise requires making careful, deliberate decisions about all aspects of your office design. First, ensure you have plenty of designated quiet areas for employees to engage in deep work. Make sure these spaces aren’t located too close to high-traffic areas such as the kitchen, huddle zones or conference rooms. Investing in acoustic furniture, which is constructed with particular dimensions and fabrics specifically to reduce office noise, can also help you create a quieter environment. Consider other options, such as wall panels, baffles and flooring designed to minimize sound, too.