Agility is the key
The world of work is awash with agile working buzz-terms such as “hot desking”, “breakout”, “scrumming” and “smart working”. In our Ben Johnson Interiors team, these words crop up regularly in our discussions with clients, but what does “agile working” actually mean and what are the benefits and challenges to business?
At Ben Johnson, we’re now regularly designing and building “agile working” workplaces across the UK. Agile working is not a new concept– but it is a new way of working. It’s all about using the benefits of changing working practices and deploying new technologies and new inspiring working environments to embrace the change. The simplest description would be to use the old Martini ad slogan “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” or “home-working and “flexi-time”. But these simply address the two-dimensional “time and place” aspect of agile working and are work styles which support mobile lives and not true agile working.
Ben Johnson clients see agile working as transformational. It’s about doing work differently focusing on performance and outcomes. The Agile Working Association says: “Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines but without boundaries of how you achieve it.”
The Agile Future Forum has conducted research amongst its members to ascertain benefits in a number of different workplaces – a retail store, a banking head office, a car manufacturer and a call centre.
The benefits included:
• matching the workforce to fluctuations in demand.
• increasing quality of outputs
• better product knowledge
• attracting and retaining high quality talent.
• increasing productivity
• minimising cost
Eversheds, the legal firm started to allow their employees the freedom to choose their own working model and saw 28% of staff reporting increased productivity and 14% of staff seeing an increase in chargeable hours.
Lloyds Bank identified further opportunity by reducing premises costs by 23% through adopting agile working in multi-site practices.
BT could insource call centre work and move it back from India because the new agile working practices enabled it to improve customer service at more competitive terms. All these findings can be studied in more depth in the report by the Agile Futures Forum Report: “Understanding the economic benefits of workplace agility” here and also at www.agilefutureforum.co.uk
So how do you apply Agile Working Principals to your business?
Companies that Ben Johnson Interiors have worked with tell us that it is important to prepare leadership first and put in place sufficient management capacity. Sometimes the attitudes of management can be a barrier to this new way of working and getting senior business leaders on board is critical. Managing of an agile workforce can occasionally be difficult in terms of performance management and resource planning. A more agile workforce can often require more management time to drive the benefit – so planning for and resourcing this is a crucial element of getting it right. It is also important to avoid implementing “agile working” as a one-off change. As the needs of your business and employees evolve, so will your agile “ideal”. Organisations need to be prepared to innovate around agility.
Ben Johnson Interiors is always one step ahead of the pack when it comes to workplace design and implementation. We strongly believe that the modern workplace must adapt to your employees’ work activities, and our expert teams of designers, project managers and installers can help create the best activity-led spaces for your business. Below are two great examples of organisations in the public and private sector that we have helped implement agile working:
Spectrum Community Health CIC provides advice, care and treatment through a range of health and wellbeing services for the people of Wakefield on behalf of the NHS. A high percentage of their staff are agile working, predominately based on client sites and returning to the office for meetings and process activity. The working environment had to be flexible, with the majority of employees using hot desks and locker facilities. The office has a high degree of quiet rooms and meeting rooms, all bookable so employees can organise the most appropriate workspace for their needs at any given time. In the completed Spectrum workplace, we designed locker and coat storage facilities away from desks, we built project pods and quite working zones; created bookable quiet rooms and designed a variety of meeting spaces from private meeting rooms to open-team and shared spaces. Dynamic breakout areas for lunch breaks and informal meetings were incorporated throughout. Read more about an office space that embraces and encourages an activity-led work culture here
Unilever is a global brand with various sites across the globe. When the decision was taken to invest £5million in the refurbishment of the research and development facility in Leeds, adopting agile working principals was a key objective. Ben Johnson worked with the Unilever Project Team to understand how agile working principals could be adopted across the site. The majority of workstations were hot desks with a locker facility to encourage employees to sit in project teams rather than departments. Different types of bookable meeting rooms were provided, from quiet rooms to open meeting and project zones. Collaboration was encouraged across all the teams, with a series of informal breakout zones and learn and share flexible spaces. We created a true activity-based work culture, with a space design for any type of work activity. What an amazing place to work! You can view our case study here
For ideas on how to apply agile working to your business call Emma Dodsley on 07921 472701.