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The Benefits And Challenges Of Adopting An Agile Workplace

Agile working seems to be the most powerful result of recent technological advances. Smart(er) phones, cloud-based business tools, and increased access to Wi-Fi enable today’s workforce to be productive in virtually any setting. The traditional office space has been redefined and the traditional nine to five work hours no longer exist. While saving money and increasing profits is often a result of adopting this workplace strategy, the primary focus for many organizations is on their people.  By humanizing the workspace, the rest falls into place.

Before we get into the benefits and downsides to implementing this new approach, let’s examine some of the common misconceptions.

Debunking Four Common Agile Workplace Myths

1) It is the workplace of the future

Agility in the workplace is not a new concept. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, workplace managers began to reexamine the business environment. The economy was undergoing a shift and families were finding it necessary to reevaluate what was necessary to balance growing responsibilities. At the same time, mobile technology was introduced, making it possible for employees to be productive without the traditional barriers of time and space.

To accommodate the workforce’s evolving needs, management teams had to reevaluate the mindset “presence equals productivity,” providing employees with the tools necessary to work effectively. Early adopters realized such flexibility offered unexpected benefits – a reduction in carbon footprint, a more engaged and productive workforce, and decrease in overall costs.

2) It decreases space utilization numbers

Many workspace managers confuse utilization rates with allocation numbers. CBRE’s research uncovered some interesting statistics – while organizations have a 90% space allocation rate, only 49% is actually utilized. With the right space management strategy, enterprises can increase utilization rates, ensuring every member of their workforce has the type of space they need, when they need it.

3) Implementing these strategies creates a chaotic environment

As we work to blend five generations under one roof, it’s become increasingly critical that we offer each individual the tools needed to be their very best. To do so, we must consider the needs of both the individual and the group. The optimal environment supports all work styles – collaborative, individual, and remote.

“How people work or want to work is very unique and personal to them.” –Jennifer Jones, Global Director with Dell

4) Agile working is simply a cost-cutting strategy, adding no other value to an organization

While trimming the budget is a benefit of implementing a more flexible work environment, the benefits don’t end there. Let’s take a look at the benefits early adopters of this strategy have realized over the last decade or so.

Benefits of Developing an Agile Workplace Strategy

Whether it be professionally or personally, most of us don’t welcome change easily. If a strategy is working, why modify it? What we forget, however, is that the world is in a constant state of metamorphosis, whether we choose to participate or not. Innovators and thought leaders embrace this, recognizing that flexibility is a key component to long-term success.

1) Attracts and Retains Industry Talent

Today’s business leaders are faced with the unique challenge of having to develop a company culture that is appealing to five very different generations. Baby Boomers have watched technology flourish, infiltrating every aspect of our lives. Gen Zers have never known life without smart phones, computers, and the Internet. One generation is accustomed to accessing information with the click of a button, while the other still remembers what it was like to sift through a card catalogue and microfilm. The one unifying concept amongst all five generations, is that we desire a work-life balance and to be recognized as an individual.

Today’s worker expects a company culture that supports them not just professionally, but personally too. Enterprises like Google and Amazon were early innovators of the flexible workplace. They’ve developed a culture that proves each employee is valued for their contribution. The result is an actively engaged, productive, and loyal workforce.

2) Employee Engagement, Leading to Increased Productivity

85% of organizations with an established flexibility culture reported a positive or extremely positive impact on employee engagement.” –  WorldatWork survey

The traditional management mindset was that you had to be in the office to be productive. Technology, however, has opened us up to a new world of possibilities. We are learning more about what drives us as humans, breaking down the boundaries along the way. The workplace culture that embraces individual work styles, offering a variety of workspace settings, ensures employees have what they need to transition from one task to another. Group projects and collaboration are more prevalent, innovation is enhanced and, in turn, more work is completed in a shorter time.

An Agile Workplace Strategy Isn’t For Everyone

As with any new strategy, implementing an agile workplace comes with its own set of challenges. Consider the following roadblocks and how to overcome them.

1) Isolation

It can be isolating to work from home five days a week. Since your goal is to encourage collaboration and engagement, consider allowing your workforce to work away from the office one or two days a week. Having everyone come into the office on a fixed day each week will not only help avoid feelings of isolation, it also ensures the office isn’t ever working with a skeleton crew.

2) Varying Work Styles

As mentioned, it is important to consider the varying work styles when devising a new workplace strategy. Remember, the goal is to accommodate everyone’s needs. If Selma feels working from home isn’t a good fit for her, give her the option to work at the office. Flexibility is a critical element your new strategy.

3) Separating Work and Home Life

When working from home, it can be difficult to separate one’s work and private life. To help combat these issues, consider setting up some guidelines, defining when individuals can be contacted regarding work issues. And, if possible, give yourself a workspace at home which can be separated from the rest of the house’s daily occurrences.

4) Change in Management Styles

Micromanaging has long been a popular management style. It sends the message, however, that companies have little faith in their employees. An agile work environment means a change in management style, leaving employees to regularly monitor themselves.

Adoption and implementation of the agile workplace is being embraced by organizations across the globe. As we work to build a more human-centric environment, the benefits will become increasingly evident. Every organization has their own unique set of needs. Critical to your strategy’s success, are the tools you make available and have in place. Software and technology can provide the right metrics to assist you in identifying what, if any, changes are necessary, and can ensure a seamless transition.

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