Agile working means the use of one workspace by multiple employees both in large collaborative settings or where employees who act in the same role share a workspace in alternating shifts. Businesses globally have adopted this trend, but agile working presents both advantages and drawbacks:
- Competitive business. From a business perspective, agile working gives a competitive edge to the services of that business. More clients’ needs are met and response times decrease when a business has more flexible hours in which to operate.
- Mobility and flexibility. One goal of agile working is to do away with presenteeism, the act of requiring employees be present in body whether or not they have presence of mind. With a workspace that can move around the office, employees become less restricted and can begin to move beyond the office walls and embrace flexible working that lets them work when and where they are most productive.
- Reduced costs. Multiple employees using the same workspace decreases the need for extra real estate. According to an article in The Telegraph, companies have cut workforce costs, saved money on operations, and report increased productivity.
- Improved productivity. More work gets done when the lights stay on longer, but employees are splitting the long hours into shifts. Where group projects are frequent, an open, agile workspace design promises easy group collaboration.
- Mismatched management. An agile workspace means a switch to self-managed employees. Managers still monitor, but the management must adapt to the change in environment or end up with employees feeling overly supervised, a kind way to say micromanaged.
- Territory disputes. Agile working in some businesses means no assigned seating, but it is human nature to claim some territory. An Australian company, Chiat/Day, was described as having ‘turf wars’ and ‘kindergarten subterfuge’ following an unsuccessful change to agile working.
- Disgruntled employees. Not all employees are receptive to agile working. Ben Collins of Business Insider Australia describes why people hate it including those territory disputes, passing germs in shared spaces, and having no space of your own.
Disassembling the cubicles in favor of a shared environment may be considered advancing the workplace, but without a complete overhaul tailored to your business, remnants of the cubicle world may cause a clash.
The pros of agile working look good to any business owner, but the cons could cause severe tension in the workplace. You should seriously consider the ability of your organisation to transform and your commitment to that transformation and only then begin to take advantage of the aspects of agile working that are most suited to your business needs.