Reinstating Boundaries: The Agile Workplace

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

There's a revolutionary movement going on and it's called the agile workplace. Are you fostering a productive working environment?

The most productive employees are those that are happy and comfortable. They are the ones who enjoy their work, enjoy their workplace and enjoy getting the results their employers need.

That being said, many factors can affect a team’s morale and level of dynamism. From the office being too dark to computers being placed at awkward angles, there are many single issues that when combined, lead to an unhappy and apathetic workforce. Corporate leaders will need to find a way to eliminate these setbacks from their workplace if they are to see an increase in business productivity.

This is where agile working comes in. It’s revolutionizing offices all over the world; bringing a combined sense of individualism and collaboration to a huge range of industries. The key take-away point from agile working is the idea that workers are given back their space and allowed to work where they feel most comfortable. This could be a quiet pod, a collaborative bench space, an armchair or a traditional desk.

The modern workplace, in which workers can choose their environment

Many make the mistake of trying to squeeze in as many people as possible into one space. They think it will cut costs and boost collaboration; when in reality, doing this causes workers to feel uncomfortable and demotivated. This workspace arrangement can be one of biggest causes of unproductivity in a business.

Related Article: Feng Shui & Fuzzy Feelings: Creating Company Culture Through Office Design

Reinstating boundaries and personal space is something that all companies should be looking to do. Not only are there implicit benefits to employees, but ones of great significance to employers as well. Reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, reduced operational costs and reduced real estate costs are just some of the perks that come as a result of agile working.

Changing demographics

The varying generations in the workplace are another factor to consider: how do you make your office work for the baby boomers to the millennials? Different demographics have different needs, different working requirements and different preferences. In order to accommodate for all of these characteristics, in-depth analysis of a workforce and office can be useful.

Firms offering workplace consultancy are the best solution when the needs of staff are to be addressed. Using research on the overall preferences of different demographics in the office, as well as personalised interviews and workplace monitoring, these firms can highlight the most efficient, effective and productive ways for an office to be organized.

The baby boomers, typically the oldest generation in an office, are used to change; they’ve seen the advent of laptops, smartphones and flexi-working. They’re adaptable. Research shows that the baby boomers look for formal, structured offices and being professional. They’re also much more likely to speak to people face-to-face, rather than emailing or texting, so collaborative spaces are essential.

Next up are the millennials, who are already agile: they are the ones working on laptops in cafes, libraries or at home. This should be encouraged, and not changed to the traditional, fixed position. Millennials are more likely to change jobs rapidly. They’ll search for a workplace that suits them, and that allows them to improve their work-life balance.

Related Article: Millennials In the Workplace: How Will They Affect Hiring?

Generation X, which is a smaller group, is also likely to look for that work-life balance. They’re at an age where they may have their own office, so any change to the workplace will have to be managed carefully. With this demographic, workplace consultancy and using outsourced firms can be necessary to maintaining smooth communication.

The last demographic, the one on the move, and just about to enter the workforce is generation Z. Like millennials, they too are agile and self-motivated. They need personal development constantly, and the space in which to do this.

Different demographics are forcing change, and the companies accepting this and creating agile workplaces are the ones benefitting the most.

Workplace application

Integrating agile working needs to be a slow, thought-out process. Sudden changes that haven’t been discussed with members of the staff can have unwanted consequences. It may be a bigger challenge than first thought, with office relocation or total refurbishment necessary.

The office needs to work around four zones: focus, collaboration, meeting and social.

Focus zones begin with open plan areas, with small, quiet pods tucked away down corridors. These little pods should make up for around 50 percent of office space.

Collaboration areas are for people to come together; they’re for the quick chats and creativity. While not necessarily meeting areas, the collaboration zone should be accessible to all, though slightly shielded. 30 percent of an office should be collaborative space.

The rest of the office can be a combination of meeting zones and social areas where groups can gather for confidential matters, or go to eat lunch. With agile working, it’s vital to dispel the idea of eating at desks; employees need to take a distinct break from the company and from their work.

The workplace needs to be inclusive, and designed around every possible group: their characteristics, quirks, traits and needs. To truly reap measurable benefits, it must be much more specific than simply a desk, a conference room and private offices.

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