If well implemented, agile working can revolutionize the work-life attitudes and balance of the next generations. By engaging the workforce at all levels and empowering individuals to make choices, agile working has the power to spur creativity, favour communication, generate motivation and improve well-being. The gain for the firm? Enhanced productivity, increased performances, reduced absenteeism, and retention of talents.

In the last decades, we have been exposed to major technological shifts and innovations, which have inevitably and permanently affected our private and professional lives. As a result of these major technological, social-political, and economical changes, new needs appeared, new behaviors were manifested, and new spaces were required, as well as demanded.

Maximum flexibility, minimum constraint

Agile working can be defined as a means to give people the freedom and autonomy to make choices, as long as they provide results. If well-implemented, agile working has the power to revolutionize the work-life attitudes and balance of the next generations, freeing them from the alienating 9-17 working trap, in which employees find themselves bored to death looking at the clock ticking until it’s finally time to go home. Agile working is centered on the needs of people. This new approach to work is not prescriptive and the one-size-fits-all kind of approach is banished. The intent of agile working is instead to engage the workforce at all levels and to empower individuals to make choices in order to spur creativity, favour communication, generate motivation and improve employees ‘well-being. The gain for the firm? Enhanced productivity, improved performances, reduced absenteeism, retention of talents.

Remote working

There are different ways to implement an agile work approach, one of this is called remote working. This new way of working has the great benefit to allow firms to employ top talents independently on their lifestyles and their homes, which can also be thousands of miles away from where their employers are located. Remote working also significantly simplifies employees´ lives and, not surprisingly, goes hand-in-hand with employee retention. For instance, if a team member wants to move or relocate, he/she can feel free of doing so without being forced to change jobs.

On a more personal level, remote working provides the freedom to structure the day in total respect of the individual´s specific needs and in safeguard of their work/life balance, whether that means starting their working day at 6am or at 4pm. However, depending on the jobs requirements and characteristics, work sessions in reunited teams and chances for communication and exchange of ideas among colleagues are highly recommended for the alignment, synchronization and effective advancement of each task.

How can the configuration of the workspace support agile work?

Over the last few years, the physical work environment has undergone significant changes to accommodate the mutated nature of work, which has become increasingly flexible, interdependent, and complex.

Creating spaces in support of Agile Working means to design environments tailored to a wide variety of users’ circumstances, in order to allow them to experiment ideas, change behaviours and embrace the new working approach with full confidence.

From a functional viewpoint, agile workspaces should be designed in such a way to enable employees to execute their jobs in great autonomy and flexibility. This requires an environment that is modular, adaptable and presenting a plurality of zones diversified in terms of purposes and sizes. When planning a new workspace, I always recommend companies to include areas where people can carry on their work individually and others meant to foster collaboration and exchange by bringing people together. Employees are supposed to be given the possibility to decide autonomously when and where to perform their jobs. Depending on the tasks assigned, they might prefer to get a seat in the focus space or to reserve a room in the team-meeting zone, to take a few minutes of break in the relaxation area or to make a call in the dedicated telephone booth.

Effective and efficient

Agile working can go hand-in-hand with activity-based offices. This means moving away from traditional or open-plan offices in order to encourage people to locate themselves where it is most suitable to complete their work. This increasing demand for new type of workspaces has forced companies to use their premises more efficiently, significantly reducing the size and number of work positions and simultaneously increasing the space dedicated to meetings and work in teams. So far, this has resulted in a significant reduction in property costs (up to 20%) and it is associated to enhanced employee wellbeing, satisfaction and performance.

However… it is not an easy task!

The freedom provided to employees and the division of the space in different working areas might let us mistakenly assume that designing an agile workspace is an easy task!

The enhanced modularity and flexibility of space require preparation and a correct management of stakeholders’ expectations in relation to the purpose and the usage of each type of space. For the organization, it can be extremely counterproductive if employees find themselves in the situation of being unsure of what part of the office should be used for which task, or what appropriate behaviour may be expected in the new setup.

Agile workspaces require an increased dependence on inter-office and interdepartmental flow of information. Since seating is free and rotation is recommended, the need for proper tools and technology to safeguard the efficient utilization and booking of shared resources (e.g. team spaces and meeting rooms) should not be overlooked.

Lastly, in order to enhance mobility and flexibility, companies should consider to set into place a paperless and “clean desk” policy. For instance, desks should be left clean and with no documents or personal belongings once the working day is terminated. Each employee should be recommended to reduce his/her personal archives, or to digitalize them, for the benefit of shared archives placed in working areas.

Books and Academic Texts:
Amigoni, G. (2019). Creative workspace: Talk vs. Action-A qualitative study on the substantive and symbolic roles and effects of creative workspaces in modern organizations.
Dark Horse Innovation. (2018). New workspace playbook: Das unverzichtbare Praxisbuch für neues Arbeiten in neuen Räumen. Murmann Publishers.