Agile working is an increasingly popular concept, because it aims to empower employees, allowing them to work with as much flexibility and as few constraints as possible. This may mean, for example, affording them the choice of when, where and how they work, with the aim of improving morale, productivity and overall work performance.
"It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it)" explains The Agile Organization, in a widely utilized definition. This lack of boundaries, however, often necessitates changes to workplaces. In this article, we offer seven tips to help you shape your existing space for agile working.
One of the priorities for a workplace built to accommodate agile working should be the provision of private spaces, where employees can go to enjoy peace and quiet, and carry out tasks that require concentration. It is important, therefore, for office fit out specialists to create these spaces and position them away from noisy areas.
A lack of ability to find privacy is one of the most common complaints employees have in many office buildings and according to research from Gensler, 53 percent of people say that others disturb them when trying to focus. Moreover, the study found that this has led to a six percent decline in workplace performance since 2008.
While privacy can be hindered by pure open plan designs, it is important that agile working environments include some collaborative spaces, where employees can get together, share ideas and work together on group tasks. Crucially, staff should have the freedom to enter and leave such areas as they wish.
These spaces will generally benefit from open plan designs, because the lack of walls and barriers allows people to converse freely, without knocking on doors, or having to get up and move between partitions. It may also be sensible to have multiple collaborative spaces, with one aimed at large groups and one aimed at smaller groups.
Working from home and other remote working options have grown in popularity and can offer tangible business benefits as well. To date, the most famous study on this came from a Chinese company, Ctrip, which found that employees working from home completed 13.5 percent more calls, and reported higher job satisfaction.
Meanwhile, a survey of American remote workers found that they feel happier, more productive and more valued. To benefit from this, however, businesses need to ensure the infrastructure is in place within their office. This may mean providing remote access to computer networks and ensuring communication technology is in place.
In addition to providing space for people to go to and collaborate, the best office fit out specialists will also be able to help you to create 'accidental collisions' between people in the workplace who might not otherwise come into contact. For example, a workplace café may allow people from different departments to share ideas.
"Accidental collisions play a key role in innovation and workplace satisfaction," explains Ed Nolan, in an article written for Work Design Magazine. "While these collisions may be spontaneous, the setting in which they occur is not. Companies can thoughtfully create work settings that drive the unexpected."
In recent times, workplace ‘play areas’ have become fashionable, with companies like Google embracing them. However, while this kind of recreational space may have a role to play, it is important that businesses also cater to people who need to get away from colleagues and enjoy some 'me time'.
According to various pieces of research compiled by the Harvard Business Review, 15 minutes of undisturbed alone time improves decision-making abilities and helps people to become more resistant to their own biases, while 12 minutes of 'daydreaming' leads to a 40 percent improvement to creativity.
One of the challenges presented by agile working, from a pure office design perspective, is dealing with service and resource requirements changing throughout the day. For this reason, organizations, and the office refurbishment companies they work with, need to ensure that office design services are designed with this in mind.
"Flexible spaces mean variable occupancies," says Liza Young, writing for CIBSE Journal. "Building services engineers have to ensure lighting, ventilation, cooling and heating are responsive, with excellent occupant control."
Finally, according to a Human Spaces Report on the subject, the concept of biophilic design is catching on and offering benefits connected to both productivity and well-being. One aspect of biophilic design, which may be worth exploring in connection with agile working, is the provision of outdoor areas for work to take place.
While outdoor spaces will not be possible everywhere, office refurbishment companies are seeing more and more requests for picnic areas or outdoor tables and chairs, so that people can work in natural environments. Advantages of outdoor working include increased access to natural sunlight and improved access to fresh air.
Agile working is a growing trend, because the concept is able to offer employees greater flexibility, more freedom and fewer boundaries. As a result, more employers are turning to it as a solution for improving morale, increasing productivity, optimizing performance quality, reducing staff turnover and enhancing overall well-being.
By following the seven tips above and working with high-quality office fit out specialists, companies can transform their existing office space and get it ready for an agile working arrangement.
Reno is a founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, an office branding company in London specializing in commercial interior designers, office refurbishment and office interior design. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends.