An Agile Work Environment

What comes to mind when you think of an “agile work environment”?  Nimble, quick, alert?

By definition, an agile work environment is a workplace that accommodates the changing needs of employees.  A single space might serve numerous purposes at various times for a number of different groups of people.  The ability to quickly move in and out of these spaces is what makes them agile.

The main characteristic of an agile work environment is flexibility. In a single day, employees might answer emails, sit in meetings, meet with clients, attend lunch and learns, participate in brainstorming sessions, and take telephone calls all before heading back to their traditional workspace.  In an agile environment, work happens everywhere and it is rarely uniform or stationary.  Based on these activities, the biggest variable in employee agility is the workspace.  By giving employees the proper tools to stay agile and productive means giving them the right space and technology.

Agile working describes how an organization empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints – to optimize their performance and deliver “best in class” value and customer service.  It leverages communications and information technology to enable people to work in ways which best suit their needs without the traditional limitations of where and when tasks must be performed.

Agile workplaces and offices give workers the freedom to make independent decisions on where and how to do their best work. An agile workplace may provide several different curated spaces and flexible seating areas.  Employees are given free access to these spaces and are not required to stay put at his or her assigned desk for the duration of the workday.

The agile working environment is not a new concept, though it is a radical shift away from the highly structured environments of the past. 

It involves creating working areas within the office whereby employees have the freedom as well as the flexibility to work where they want and when they want to. An agile workplace makes it possible to increase profitability by focusing on what the employee does, when they want to, and providing office space that meets their needs.

Businesses that adopt an agile working strategy are carefully designed and developed to actively support and encourage a dynamic environment and daily working experience.

While this can also include flexible working hours, agile working is geared towards breaking down traditional barriers between staff and their preferred ways of working, enabling staff to work at their best and most efficient.  It brings a sense of trust, individualism as well as collaboration in different industries.  The reason to create an agile working environment is to ensure that employees are given freedom as well as space to work where they feel comfortable. This could be a collaborative bench space or a quiet pod – or even just the traditional desk – as long as the employee feels comfortable and can deliver.

Any office space or workplace can become effective, efficient and more flexible if it supports a dynamic workforce rather than a static one. By getting rid of desk ownership, an employer can increase its office space capacity. Agile space in its own sense involves such things as collaboration space, focus space, relaxation space, team meeting space, concentration space (repetitive – same as focus space), inspirational space, and phone conversation space. An agile workplace provides flexible working spaces for different activities in the workplace, ensuring that employees are engaged and productive.

Characteristics of an Agile Environment

What makes a workspace agile and flexible?

  • Access. Agility equals flow.  Employees need to be able to seamlessly move into and out of spaces.  Doors, walls and other elements may create barriers to flexibility.  People do not like being confined, especially if their workstyles are dynamic.
  • Comfort.  Work tasks vary, but comfort is universally required to get work done. Employees who are uncomfortable, on-edge, displaced, or jarred by their temporary environment will spend more time adapting than working.
  • Peace. Providing a level of privacy, peace, and quiet is difficult in open, agile spaces. The lower the level of interruption you can bring to a workspace, the easier it is for workers to stay on-task.
  • Adaptability. Can someone rearrange the furniture, if necessary? Is there room for a standing desk? Are there enough electrical outlets? Understand the common needs of employees and you will ensure the space can accommodate them.

Attention to design can enhance these fundamental attributes.  Good lighting and greenery promote peace.  Smart technology supports access and adaptability.  Comfortable furniture lends itself to physical wellbeing.  The sometimes seemingly small details matter in an agile space.

Agile Workspace Types

An agile work environment is made up of many smaller, flexible workspaces, but there is nothing to say they need to be the same or similar.  There is broad variance in what an agile workspace looks like and how it functions.  Some examples include:

  • Breakout meeting spaces
  • Experiential spaces
  • Open plan spaces
  • Quiet work zones
  • Resource spaces
  • Touchdown and overflow areas

While they may look different, these spaces function in the same way – they account for on-demand needs and conform to diverse expectations.  They are what they need to be, when they need to be.

Creating an agile workplace should be a slow and a well thought-out process and in line with corporate strategy.  For the concept to work, a culture of trust is required.  Sometimes changes that are introduced at work without the employees being aware or consulted end up not working. When you are integrating agile working, the zones that our clients most concentrate on are focus, meeting, collaboration and social.

Take care of your people by taking care of your workspace.  Give us a call to speak with our team of registered interior designers and product specification experts to find out how. Mayhew creates and maintains workplaces that work!  We are here to help.


About Mayhew:

Mayhew specializes in office interior design and workplace branding. We work with our clients to maximize their investment in technology, process and people by leveraging their investment in space. Combining smart workspace planning with the right office furniture will contribute directly to your business results.