There are many common misconceptions and myths regarding Agile Working Practices (also known as Flexible Working, Smart Working and a number of other names.)
Here are a few of the common ones;
Agile Working is not new. Global accountancy giant Ernst & Young are recognised as the pioneers of Agile Working – their first Agile Office Design was in Chicago and opened in 1992. In the UK Andersen Business Consulting redesigned their London headquarters building in 1998 and it included touchdown benchs, breakout areas and unassigned desking. At the time these projects were radical and pioneering.
We admit there are many buzz-words flying about as many corporates like to give the concept their own tag-line. Agile working, Smart working, Flexible working, Collaborative working, hotelling, free address, activity based working, homeworking, non-territorial working and many more. Words are how we communicate, so we have to be careful to select the right terminology. Each organisation must pick the name or style that is right for them. However the Agile Working concepts are largely the same and have been developed and proven by many organisations.
Agile working does not mean Home working which is a special function that requires careful assessment. A flexible or agile working scheme may include home working depending on the role and function of the person. In essence Agile or Flexible working entails that people should be able to choose to work wherever the best place for that task is.
Many believe that introducing Agile Working will be a quick method of reducing their overheads. Unfortunately this is not always the case as successful schemes do take some time to get right. The most successful solutions are often those that involve a pilot scheme – to test, evaluate and showcase as part of the battle for the hearts and minds of the users.
On paper the potential savings can look phenomenal, but it is not that straightforward. Yes the space taken up by the open-plan team workspaces will reduce but for an Agile Working scheme to be successful you have to introduce new collaborative space and quiet zones. One of the key drivers that is often overlooked or ignored is the potential productivity gains in improved collaboration and networking and also reduction in time wasted in persons waiting for meeting rooms to become free or worse for key projects to be delayed by lack of meeting space and therefore decision making time.
One size does not fit all. An Agile Working solution for a financial consultancy and another for a media company are going to be significantly different. Each solution will be different and should acknowledge the individuality of each organisation. For any office design scheme to be successful it needs to reflect and promote the culture of the company. Get the team involved and allow them to inject personality into the solution and take ownership.
This is not the case. However many organisations have attempted a hot-desking scheme without the necessary breakout spaces, touchdown areas etc. This has resulted in flawed environments and bad experiences that tend to stay in people’s minds and, in many cases, have brought about prejudice against any similar sounding scheme. We believe that, if approached carefully and sensitively, the vast majority of organisations will find the right interpretation of ‘agile working’ for them.