The terms “flexible work” and “work-life balance” are often sprinkled into conversations about how a modern company should operate. Both existing employees and new candidates want these concepts. But what are they exactly and what are the tactical changes companies can make that will earn them the designation as a flexible workplace that prioritizes work-life balance?
Enter the agile work environment. Below, you’ll learn about what agile work environments are and how to make practical changes to your office that support them.
- What is an agile work environment
- Assessing your own workplace (Do I need an agile work environment?)
- Benefits of an agile environment
- How to create an agile work environment
- The impact of agile workplaces in 2023
What is an Agile Work Environment
Agile work environments are designed to be flexible, adaptive, and responsive to individual employee and broader market changes. It is a rapid development concept that focuses on delivering results quickly and efficiently by providing a workspace that gives employees greater leeway in deciding how to do their work in the way that best suits them.
An agile work environment is unique to each company and its company culture. But, it has three main characteristics:
- Flexible: An agile work environment defies the rigid norms of traditional office environments. When a workplace is flexible, it is able to accommodate the varying needs of its employees that enables their best professional performance.
- Adaptive: Adaptability in the workplace means having the ability to adjust based on the professional needs of any employee or their team at any given time. For instance, if a team needs to quickly touch base before a client meeting, they have the tools and resources within their environment to do so. Alternatively, if there is a big project that needs to be completed by an otherwise fragmented team that requires a lot of collaboration and visualization, an agile work environment provides the space for that team to adapt their working style to complete the assignment.
- Responsive: An employee who is motivated and has the knowledge to see a problem and solve it is a valuable one. The gold standard would be to create an entire team that can do this. An agile work environment should encourage and promote accountable, responsive behavior to solving challenges.
Agile Work Environment versus Hybrid Work Environment
While similar, an agile work environment and a hybrid work environment are different. Simply, a hybrid work environment grants employees flexibility in where they work. For example, coming into the office two days a week and working from home the remaining three. An agile work environment goes just a step further and allows employees to not only determine where they work but how they work as well.
Do I Need to Adopt an Agile Work Environment?
As goes the most frustrating answer to exist…it depends.
But, most of the time the answer will be yes. An agile workplace, when effectively implemented, works for every employee and working style. So, ideally, it creates the optimal workspace for each member of the team.
Creating an environment where every team member has a space to perform their best work makes for a more productive, efficient workplace. And, most importantly, a happy team.
Fostering Employee Supremacy With an Agile Work Environment
Employee supremacy is a business model that shifts leadership and executive decision-making away from what’s solely best for the shareholder to what’s best for employees (which ultimately benefits everyone, including shareholders).
Instituting an agile work environment allows your employees to thrive in their workspace. It’s a way to invest positively in your team and prioritize their best professional selves, as opposed to simply what makes the most sense financially or logistically for the shareholders.
An agile work environment takes time to create and implement. But, in doing so, you align your organization with a model that invests in your employees above all. The benefits that accompany a model of employee supremacy mirror that of an agile workplace.
Key Benefits of Building an Agile Work Environment
What are the benefits of working in an agile environment? Based on the organization, they can be expansive. The primary benefits are improved employee engagement, customer satisfaction, reducing operational overhead, and improving space efficiency.
- Improve employee engagement: Global workplace analytics and consulting firm, Gallup, defines employee engagement as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace. And team members with higher levels of engagement have been proven to produce substantially better outcomes, treat customers better and attract new ones, and are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged. Building an agile work environment directly impacts the entire employee experience, which positively influences employee engagement.
- Enhanced customer satisfaction: Though mentioned above, improved customer satisfaction through an agile workspace for employees bears repeating. Employees given the space to produce their best work is reflected back to customers and clients in responsiveness, anticipating needs, personalized experiences and more.
- Reduce overhead: When a space is streamlined and enables employees to be more efficient and productive, an organization can be nimble and require less overhead.
- Increased space efficiency: An agile work environment allows for greater insights into space management at which point an organization’s space can be analyzed and therefore monetized better.
How Do You Create an Agile Work Environment?
So you want to create an agile workspace…now what? The first step to take to transform your environment to an agile one involves determining what you and your team need and want. Essentially, you need to ask yourself, “What kind of environment brings out the best in my employees and coworkers?”
It’s a good idea to conduct a short survey or poll about prospective changes to get real feedback for your team. Even if you already think you know what kind of environment your team will thrive in, reaching out for and receiving feedback is still the best way to start. After all, the goal of an agile work environment is to create a space that employees feel taken into consideration. So, involving them in that process will only bolster your efforts.
Tools & Resources For Building an Agile Workplace
- Collaboration tools: Chat, communication, and project management tools are essential to a successful agile work environment. These tools need to be in place first and foremost. They are necessary to provide insight and cohesion among teams.
- Secure File Sharing: Having a secure, cloud-based drive or protected internal database to quickly and easily share documents and files supports every employee on a flexible team.
- Hot desking and office hoteling: Flexible space management like hot desking and office hoteling allows space to be efficiently maximized. Hot desking refers to allocating desks on a needed or rotation basis as opposed to simply assigning everyone their own desk in the office. Office hoteling is a dynamic method to manage flexible spaces that allows employees to schedule their workspaces, such as a desk, conference room or office.
- Room reservation apps: The best way to manage hot desking, office hoteling or any other flexible workspace is with room reservation applications. These are also an important component of agile workspaces because they provide data on how, when and why a particular space was used, which informs decisions on how to best maximize office space and flow.
- Streamlined visitor check-in: Most workplaces will have some type of visitor management system, whether it be a paper logbook or a receptionist. But an agile workplace will implement a visitor management software to streamline guest check-in. Whether a front desk is using the software to better focus their time on greeting clients with a personalized experience or a small office needs a do-it-yourself solution to check-in visitors, flexible workspaces will make sure this process is done efficiently coupled with office security in mind.
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Types of Agile Workspaces
- Breakout meeting spaces: Whether formal or informal, breakout meeting spaces are [typically small] designated areas used for last minute meetings, brainstorming, or a quick touch-base.
- Experiential spaces: As the name suggests, an experiential space refers to a workplace built specifically for the specific company’s employee experience. This can be a little obscure. That is simply because every company is different. At The Receptionist, for example, the office space has a small recording studio for podcasting and several breakout spaces for collaboration and content creation as it’s a critical component to the business strategy and goals.
- Open plan spaces: A floor plan that makes use of large, open spaces to minimize enclosed areas and private offices.
- Quiet work zones: Think of your school library. Quiet zones are focus areas that can be depended upon to be a silent space to work.
- Resource spaces: Most commonly, a resource space will be a copy room with supplies and worktables to compile and finalize projects and tasks.
- Touchdown and overflow areas: This is any space that allows an employee to take a quick seat to answer emails or complete a few tasks in between meetings. It can take the form of a seating area in a lounge, high-top tables or other flexible workstation.
The Impact of Agile Workplaces in 2023
A 2022 study found that 58 percent of American employees have the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week. The same survey reported that when offered the chance to work remotely, 87 percent of respondents took it. This leaves companies with the unique challenge of what to do with their office spaces that used to accommodate most employees five days a week.
Remote and hybrid work has changed the way employees and teams communicate. Traditional office norms no longer make much sense, and these changes in work practices, which are widely accepted as permanent, need to be incorporated into office spaces. This is also important during a time when, now more than ever, employees want empathy and to feel like they’re valued and being invested in.
So, assessing if an agile work environment is right for your team and making the decision to create one will have a significant impact in the coming year.
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