While the term ‘agile working environment’ might seem like a foreign idea to many, a lot of the companies at the top of the ‘most desirable places to work’ lists are adopting the values, standards and attitudes that come along with the agile working trends.

Is this new way of working merely a passing fad, or is it paramount to creating more productive workplaces?

What is an agile working environment?

An agile workplace is one in which anyone can work anywhere, at anytime. Various pieces of technology and even the specific talents and skills of people within the business can support this type of concept, but without a doubt the strongest pieces of support for agile workspaces are the interior design elements and architecture.

Designing rooms and spaces specifically for efficiency, productivity and collaboration means those results will actually be achieved. Instead of needing to choose your work activities to fit your workspace, now you can choose your workspace to fit your activities. If you ever need to be flexible and move on to a new activity with other people in the business, it’s easy to change your location and work from a different space which suits your new needs better.

The agile working environment seems like a great idea, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to make sure your workspace could actually benefit from the change or if your current office configuration is what works best.

The perks

  • One of the biggest draw cards for the modern employee is a work space that is comfortable, fun and promotes collaboration. A space that does all this and more can attract the best, highly skilled employees.
  • Spaces designed specifically for innovation and collaboration are more likely to actually achieve those results, ensuring that your business is moving forward.
  • By replacing many set desks with new spaces designed for different activities, you can be reassured that your employees can find a space to work where they can be at their best. This means you are getting the best work out of them and they feel as though their work is more meaningful and effective, giving your whole team a positive outlook on their work.
  • With spaces designed for socialisation, recreation and making connections with fellow employees, this positivity at work is carefully nurtured and will only grow to exude into the rest of their work.

The challenges

For many businesses, the biggest challenge is simply employee attitudes to the transition to an agile working space:

  • Moving from cubicles or assigned offices for individual work to having open spaces designed with collaboration as a priority could be a change that some are unwilling or unsure how to accept.
  • Others will have privacy at the forefront of their minds – if there is a heavy focus on public spaces rather than private, many are naturally concerned that their privacy will be compromised.
  • Hot-desking can be a great option for many businesses, but it may take some trial and error to find the perfect solution for your workplace. Many businesses have found that through a ‘first-in, first-served’ attitude, some team members end up further away from each other than is ideal. Your architect or designer can help you find a ratio that works for your business, to avoid unused desks, overcrowding of desks or displacement of team members.
  • For many who have spent years climbing the business ladder to snag that corner office or the desk with the view, changing to a flatter office space hierarchy may be a kick in the guts. Many will see the flat, open landscape as a positive equaliser, but others may see it as insulting or even a ‘demotion.’
  • Interesting discussion Ruth,

    Whilst there are certainly advantages of flexible working type of arrangements, there are a few points of caution.

    (1) Many workers genuinely do value a sense of 'stability' and a sense of work space which they own and which gives them a degree of predictability and genuinely do work best when they have their own work space. Moving around suits workers of some personality and temperament. A lot of the tasks I performed in my former roles as an accountant required considerable periods of sustained concentration on what were largely solo based tasks. Having my own defined space and being able to work in a structured way was something I personally valued much. Some workers, too, simply have the temperament that they work more effectively in a highly structured way with their own spaces.

    2. Some types of work environments are simply not suitable for hot desking. Again in my time as an accountant, I was dealing with a lot of confidential client information and confidential company financial information. In that environment, the need to be able to control my own workspace without others using it was obvious. Likewise, with HR and payroll departments, the need for control spaces and data which others can't see is obvious.

    3. When workers 'own' their own space, they have the ability to personalise their space and set it up in such a way that best suits their natural working styles.

    I'm not saying that these open pods styles are necessarily a bad thing. I am just saying that caution should be excercised before you tell workers they cannot have their own space.

    • It's less productive, Not more productive!
      People are at their best when they are comfortable with their work space, Doesn't matter if you are talking about white collar or blue collar workers, Moving people around means they have to try and adapt to new space so they will naturally work slower than they usually would.
      Shared spaces are a joke, It's this new trend large companies are trying to implement in order for everyone to share the same workload without getting more pay for the extra work!
      You are employed to do a specific job, Not just ANY job otherwise CEO may as well be on basic minimum wage as factory worker.
      When you have your own area set up the way YOU work, Not the way someone else does, Then you can pump the work orders out.
      Issue I have in factory job is they tried to do this and still are, Cut down one of the tables to suit short Asian ladies. That's all good and well except now us tall blokes that finish our workload and go help in other sections, Now have to bend over, It's not good at all end up with bad back.
      Everyone needs to have their own set place to suit their own specific working needs, People are not machines/robots!
      May get away with this trend with workplaces such as Facebook where the job is talking to each other sharing ideas, But for other jobs where concentration is needed, be it for office workers or hands on manual labor out in factory, it is a step backwards!