Creative ideas for making work environments increasingly agile are evolving all the time. We are seeing clients enhancing their workspace and contributing to their employer relations both in the creation of brand new offices, but also by injecting new ideas into current spaces.
Introducing agility to a workplace doesn’t have to mean a complete redesign, massive budgets or waiting until the time comes to move to new premises. Research shows that as much as 60 percent of traditional office space can be unused on any given day. This means many businesses will have the opportunity to consider how wasted space could be better used, and sometimes the most innovative ideas come from no budget at all.
What are agile work environments?
Agile workspaces are designed to give employees flexibility about where and how they work. They feature a range of different spaces, allowing employees to work where they feel most productive and inspired, or which most suits the task they need to complete. It is a move away from the traditional office layout, where employees spend the vast majority of each and every working day at the same desk.
Types of flexible space options include; private working and phone areas, breakout spaces for collaboration and brainstorming, casual and formal meeting areas, a choice of traditional desks or alternative sofas, beanbags or standing desks and open plan seating areas where people from all different departments and levels can sit together. Plus, spaces to eat, relax, have fun and socialise during the working day.
What are the business benefits?
There are many potential benefits to creating agiler working environments. Bringing employees together in more open and collaborative spaces can help to improve communication across the business. This can encourage innovation, increase leadership visibility and set the tone for a company culture which will get the best from your workspace.
It can benefit the bottom line by increasing productivity and have a positive impact on employee wellbeing; increasing engagement and reducing sickness absence. We all know that sitting at a desk for too long is not suitable for our physical or mental health and a agiler working environment can encourage people to get up and move around, take proper breaks and socialise more.
The workplace environment is also a critical factor in determining an employer brand which will attract and retain high calibre employees. Agile spaces are proving especially popular among organisations looking to recruit talented millennials, as this type of working environment is particularly attractive to this generation.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to creating an agile work environment, consideration needs to be given to what will be a good fit for each organisation, its culture and business needs.
Agile workspaces tend to work well in businesses where there is already a positive approach to flexible working and a focus on results achieved rather than time spent in the office. Employees may not be leaving the building, but if there is a historical culture of presenteeism, they could still be concerned about ‘being seen to be doing their work’ if they are not sat at their specific desk. Organisations which already adopt flexible working practices are also more likely to have the technology in place which will support working from different spaces around the office.
If making creative changes to the work environment will mean the business is moving away from an extremely traditional layout and working practices, careful consideration needs to be given to the impact this could have on employees. As with any element of change, it is likely to cause concerns among staff, whether it is worries about the potential loss of their personal desk space, fears about using new technology or concerns about how this will affect day-to-day life and the office culture they are accustomed to.
Make sure there is leadership buy-in for any potential creative changes, so senior colleagues can lead by example and talk positively about what is being done and how they hope it will benefit everyone. Involve employees in the process and ask for their ideas and feedback. They can help you to identify the types of spaces which would be most appreciated and make a difference to them. They are best placed to share what they think the current environment may be lacking, whether it is a vibrant and stimulating area for brainstorming or a quiet space where employees can choose to work if they want to focus with minimal distractions. For example, one of our clients asked employees how they would like to see a spare training room being used. A staff committee was given a budget to kit it out, and now the team has a space to break away from their desks and take proper breaks, with a pool table, drinks fridge and bean bags.