What is Agile Working? A Guide for the modern workplace

Agile working is a relatively new term that essentially places focus on the importance of versatility in the workplace. As a company that specialises in the provision of premium office spaces in iconic locations in London, we understand the importance of agile working and the mental and productivity benefits it offers.

We’ll be discussing these themes as well as explaining some of the terms associated with agile working to offer a full breakdown of what agile working is.

What is Agile Working?

So, agile working is essentially based on flexibility, with a focus on bringing people, technology, time and location together to create a positive and productive work environment. Creating agile workspaces takes time and may require a company to completely change the way it operates, focusing more on how well employees work as opposed to where or even when they’re working.

If you were to deconstruct what agile working means, it can be summarised in four parts:

  • The time when you work
  • Your role (and what you do)
  • Where you’re working or plan to work (location)
  • Your team and the tasks you’re responsible for
  • Role: what you do
  • Location: where you work
  • Source: the teams and tasks you work with

There is a lot of research that backs up the benefits of adopting an agile work methodology and work environment. Further down, we’ve linked a helpful guide from the NHS that outlines all the fantastic benefits that come with adopting this work model.

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How You Achieve Agile Working & How it Works

Structuring agile work (as contradictory as that sounds) is crucial to ensure employees are able to work in an agile and productive manner. Objectives, KPIs and performance indicators need to be agreed upon by both employees and the company to ensure a positive and productive work environment.

The key factors to address are:

  • Flexibility must be encouraged

Without flexibility, agile working doesn’t work. The whole point of agile working is based on flexibility and versatility, it’s not just about how employees conduct their work, but where they do it. We’ve seen the typical office change and adapt over the last few years with remote working being almost compulsory for many people and industries. Yes, the pandemic certainly sped up this transition to agile working, but it was always coming.

  • Provide employees with the tools to succeed

While the benefit of agile working can boost productivity and the mental wellbeing of employees, it’s also important that you provide your employees with the tech and skills to efficiently do their job. Your employees don’t necessarily have to come into work to perform the same tasks, instead, encourage and help them to form new, innovative ways to complete tasks and handle problems away from the office.

  • Promoting identity and purpose

While there is a sense of independence when it comes to agile working, that doesn’t necessarily mean your employees will guarantee productivity or engagement. Away from the office or from an immediate management or leadership figure, employees may lose touch with their job’s identity, which can result in low job satisfaction and in turn, poor productivity. Companies need to find ways to ensure employee’s jobs and roles still retain their identities and values.

What is the Difference Between Agile Working and Flexible Working?

The terms flexible working and agile working are often confused or used in a fairly arbitrary way. This can sometimes lead to confusion and give both managers and employees an incorrect understanding of how both separate concepts operate.

So, flexible working is used in the specific context of flexible working hours. For example, companies may offer the option for employees to arrive at work later but leave later (10-6 pm or 10-5 pm with no lunch break etc). In addition, flexible working can also extend to location, so you may be able to work from a different time and space, such as working from home.

Agile working, as we discussed previously, is more about a company’s ability to swiftly adapt to a new work structure for the benefit of its employees. It encourages its workforce to work when, where and ultimately how they choose. This might mean removing dedicated desks, changing to an open plan office, creating breakout spaces or a mixture of all three.

In essence, flexible working focuses more on the individual employee, whereas agile working focuses on the overall versatility and impacts of the business.

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Why is Agile Working Important?

Agile working is important for several of the reasons mentioned above. Above all else, agile working helps support a dynamic workforce that’s open to adapt, as opposed to a more archaic, static workforce. Whether it’s getting rid of single desk ownership or knocking down walls to make room for breakout spaces, allowing employees to take ownership of their roles and tasks in a versatile and adaptable environment is bound to enhance productivity and job satisfaction.

Businesses that refuse to adapt risk leaving their employees in the dark and seeing their engagement levels drop, resulting in poor morale and inconsistent workflow. It’s up to the office manager or the company leader(s) to find ways to ease such issues and make the working atmosphere as conducive as possible.

Understanding the Terminology Attached to Agile Working

You may come across some unusual terms when talking about agile working. Here’s a breakdown of some of the terms and phrases to help you understand them in context:

Presenteeism: this term describes the concept of staying in the office for more hours than required. For example, a typical office day is 9-5, but if you’re able to finish your work earlier and to a high standard, why stay later?

Unified communication: this is the integration of new tech to better communicate with people either in the same workspace as you or from afar. Notable communication examples include video calling, desktop app messengers or even phoning. For agile working to work, communication channels need to be optimised and accepted throughout the business.

Activity-based working: an alternative method to agile working, where instead of organising the workspace based on people or teams, the room is organised by tasks and activities. This is ideal for more creative businesses.

Hot desking: hot-desking is where desks are allocated based on an “as and when needed” format. No desk is any one person, instead, the concept of hot-desking allows employees to seamlessly jump from one desk to another every day, ideal for both mental health and networking. To learn more about hot-desking, take a look at our all you need to know guide on it.

The agile working policy: this one’s quite complex to explain in brief, but the NHS have created an in-depth breakdown of all you need to know about agile working. Basically, the agile working policy outlines an overall framework that enables businesses to carry out tasks and roles in a much more effective and efficient manner. The framework provides a medium for consistency and fair practice to help maintain a positive agile working environment.

How Halkin Aids Agile Working

When it comes to agile working, there are a number of different workspaces for you to consider. At Halkin, our job is to make UK business’s lives easier by providing workspaces tailored to their needs. Whether it’s a fully managed office with all the amenities required to effectively run your company or a vibrant, eclectic coworking space bursting with networking opportunities in London’s most iconic locations.

We have the means to help develop your business and provide a prestigious address that further enhances the trust and quality of your brand. If you’re in the market for a new agile workspace, why not arrange a tour of one of our London offices? Or if you’d like to know a little more about who we are and how we can help your business, give us a call today.