The days of standard working spaces are now over; we are sure we aren't the first people to announce this and we certainly won’t be the last. Nevertheless, we are currently in a poignant time for office design as we learn more about how employees stay motivated. When a team is motivated, they have a higher chance of reaching their potential and as a result the whole business should benefit. Furthermore, we are also learning all about the importance of collaboration and how this can be encouraged within the workplace. With all of these factors and more coming into play, we have essentially reached the conclusion that an office space is more than just a place to come to work, sit in silence, and complete the tasks set out by the boss. In this article we want to delve into the world of ‘agile workplace design’ to explore the benefits, how it can be utilised, and how you can get the most from your employees!
What does an agile work environment actually mean? Essentially, the term describes a process of reconsidering office interior design, to create a flexible and productive environment, in order to bring about an increase in efficiency, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation. An agile office will offer workers a variety of places to work, so they have the freedom to work where and when they want. Rather than being just a workplace, the managers who embrace this look at the workspace as a room for creativity and they want the employees to see it as a second home.
At this point, we should note that this doesn’t spell the end for individual desks. Instead, today’s employees are different in that they need more variety. With the introduction of technology, they need solutions that support mobility and interactivity. If they don’t find that with your own business, it may not be long before they start looking elsewhere and this is a huge problem for businesses these days.
If we look towards the likes of Google, they have ‘idea corners’ and kitchen areas to promote communication. With soft seating and quiet pods, they provide an array of different environments in one space. Before you click away in frustration, we appreciate that not everyone (or anyone, probably) has the budget of Google but this doesn’t have to be an expensive task. Recently, the market has witnessed the introduction of clever products such as freestanding shelving units, storage spaces that double up as desks, freestanding locker systems, and storage walls. With finishes that match the decor of your office space, there are superb manufacturers who are looking to utilise the space you have to create the work environment we’ve already discussed.
Before we start looking at the different environments and benefits of an agile work space, we should look towards Autotrader as a recent example of how it all works. After decades of working in a traditional work space of cubicles and standard individual desks, they have now decided to invest in their facility in Bristol. By creating ‘squad zones’ and various collaborative areas, they want technology and agile work design to support staff and bring out the best in the team they have
If you are planning to create an agile work design for your office space, there are five key elements you need to consider. By combining the need for collaboration and concentration, the principles you form start when you allow for these key elements in the design itself.
With collaboration especially, open plan areas are essential as they bring the employees together and provide the right environment to communicate and become one. Rather than having a disjointed office with high walls and various doors, an open plan office means that everyone is normally within talking distance and it makes it easier to converse. Many initially believe that an open plan space makes it easier for employees to get distracted and it may take some time for workers to grow accustomed to this new environment. As long as you create positive habits from the very first day and ensure the new space isn't used for ‘gossip’, this shouldn't be a problem moving forward.
As well as the open plan, the office should also have certain quiet zones where workers can get some privacy for confidential tasks or any tasks that require concentration. They provide an opportunity to escape the open plan area at key times during the day. If they’re designed in the right way, you could also make them big enough for meeting spaces.
Whether for ad-hoc meetings or perhaps lunch hours, the breakout space is a more creative area of the office where employees can break from the mould (as the name suggests). By allowing their minds to relax and move away from the normal stresses of the work place, teams can brainstorm and come up with new ideas. Ideally, this space will have charging points as well as WiFi. With some companies like Google, they have these creative spaces where workers can work on their own projects for a few hours per week.
Next up, you may have some employees who spend most of their time out in the field or working from home. With touchdown zones, there will be space for their visits or it can be used as an overflow for the main office. For these people in the business, touchdown zones are fantastic for short stays such as checking emails. Sometimes, they can be combined with the breakout areas to become one expansive zone.
Finally, nearly everything in business has something that holds everything else into place. For agile work design, this vital cog in the wheel is the resources you provide. For example, storage is essential and this is something we discussed previously. With clever storage desks and easily-accessible wall shelving units, the team will act as one rather than a group of individuals. With the superb designs in the market today, this is where much of the space can be saved. Additionally, you should consider team filing, copiers and printers, stationery storage, and recycling stations. Ultimately, storage is where your agile work design journey begins because it opens the door for every other step in the process. By decluttering the workspace with perimeter storage, for example, you allow for collaboration and make the whole process that little bit easier. When you look around your office right now, the amount of filing cabinets and shelving is probably the factor holding you back but clever, unique storage sorts this problem instantly.
So now you know exactly what an agile workplace offers and how they are typically made up, but what about the benefits? Why should you be investing in this idea in 2017 and beyond?
Utilisation of Space
First and foremost, we tend to waste a significant amount of space in our offices. For those that call their workplace ‘small’, we truly believe they could make a huge difference with an agile workplace. As mentioned above, clever perimeter storage can open up new avenues you never thought possible. In the past, we have seen people who thought they needed a new office after growing their business somewhat. Instead, they just needed help utilising the space they already had. Over time, this makes a business more cost-effective too.
Carbon Footprint Reduction When redesigning your office space, you can make it greener and therefore lessen the impact of your business on our beautiful planet. With a recycling centre and more efficient ways to run your technology, you can help the environment, save some money, and even use this as a selling technique. As both consumers and suppliers are becoming more wary of a business’s environmental impact these days, your ‘green’ offering will become a USP and this can help you to grow.
Retain the Best Talent
Although we have referred to Google twice already, we are going to return there now and this is because they have got it right. With their agile workspace, they have attracted and now retain the very best talent in the industry and you can do the same. As employers, you can build your reputation within your industry because all workers feel valued. When employees feel valued, they are less likely to look to change jobs. When a workforce is happy, they become more efficient, they’re passionate about what they do, and they persuade everyone they know that your company is the best around. As the work space allows for communication and collaboration, the whole team is comfortable with the company and with one another and you all grow together much like a family. Let’s not forget, millennials are more restless than any generation we have seen so far. Whereas previous generations saw money as the motivating factor in a job, millennials value happiness above all else and an agile workplace creates a happy atmosphere both now and long into the future.
Just because an employee is present, this doesn’t mean they are reaching full productivity, this has been an oversight in the business world for far too long. When you concentrate on absenteeism, this doesn’t assess the core of the problem. With an agile workspace, it addresses the key issue of productivity head on. In addition to feeling motivated in the workplace, they’re splitting their time between different work environments and they’re getting the help they need to succeed with the company.
Finally, creativity and innovation is encouraged at every step of the way and you’ll reap the rewards as a result. With more collaboration and creative spaces, you will soon have ideas for sales, purchasing, marketing, and more. As the ideas keep coming, your business will push past the competition for a long time to come!
There we have it, your introductory guide to having an agile work space, how it works, how to get started with clever storage options, and the why the system is so good. Ultimately, you don’t have to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands like Google and the process can start with some cleverly-designed storage as soon as the order is made!