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The Agile Work Environment: Flexible, Productive, and Modern

Keep reading to learn what an agile work environment is, the benefits of having one, and how to design an agile workspace for your employees.

You've probably heard of agile methodology or agile project management, but what about agile work environments? Agile working is in right now, and it stems from the original agile method.
Agile methodology was created in 2001 to improve efficiency, flexibility, and quality for software development teams. Since then, we've seen the agile approach throughout the working world, and it looks like agile work environments are here to stay as part of the new normal.
The agile work environment takes an "out with the old, in with the new" approach. Instead of traditional office spaces with fixed structures and assigned workstations, it's all about freedom. An agile office gives employees the flexibility to work when and where they want.
This guide will delve deeper into agile work environments and office design, helping you optimize your space for productivity and employee satisfaction.

Why Agile?

agile and collaborative work
Agile is a project management approach that relies on specific processes such as Scrum methodology. It’s all about adaptability and collaboration over fixed structures, favoring velocity over rigid structure. This translates to a working space that changes with the needs of teams and individual employees in the office.
The Agile Manifesto emphasizes individuals, interactions, and responding proactively to change. And while the manifesto doesn’t directly apply to the agile work environment, these guiding principles can help you create an office that allows employees to feel productive and satisfied.

What Is an Agile Work Environment?

Agile Work Environment
An agile work environment is all about meeting the needs of your employees, which requires flexibility so that team members can work in ways that best suit them.
For example, some might prefer open seating around their coworkers, while others work much better at an isolated workspace in a quiet corner of the office. And some employees might do their best work from home, outside of but still a part of the agile workplace.
It’s not just about a flexible working model, though. Agile workspaces are all about generating increased productivity and job satisfaction. An agile environment often includes a hybrid workplace model and company culture that may allow or encourage remote work or irregular hours for those who prefer it.

The Benefits of the Agile Approach

The agile way of working is suitable for companies that focus on outcomes over employee attendance. It focuses on convenience and comfort for employees, encouraging high-level performance and connectivity between departments and teams.
An agile working environment can benefit businesses looking to remove traditional constraints from their workers for a more inclusive company culture.
Agile workplaces are also great for companies that switched to remote work during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis. As employees return, transitioning to a more flexible environment can make settling into the new normal easier.
The benefits of agile working environments include:
  • Increased interaction between team members and more cohesive teamwork
  • Efficient, versatile space utilization with fewer permanently-assigned workstations
  • Flexibility and individual freedom for employees, improving retention and empowering employees to improve their work-life balance
  • Real estate cost savings and smaller office spaces (especially if some employees work remotely)
Agile work environments are part of the new normal brought about by COVID-19. As a result, businesses everywhere are jumping on board, and today’s employees have expressed a desire for more flexibility. Also, many employees said that they will consider leaving workplaces that don’t adapt to today’s changing environment.

Potential Drawbacks of an Agile Work Environment

Some employees might find an agile work environment difficult or frustrating. For example, managers may be unavailable when needed due to the lack of fixed hours in the office, which creates the need for self-management. Similarly, certain businesses and workplaces (e.g., call centers) may find that agile is not the most efficient setup for how they work and their business needs.

Agile Office Design Tips

Agile Work Environment
An agile space provides functional areas that meet employees’ working styles and promote better productivity. Agile work environments generally encourage workers to choose a setting that works best for their given activity, and they usually prefer hot desking over assigned desks. However, some teams may work in designated clusters for easier collaboration and decision-making.
Here are some standard components of these flexible workspaces:
  • Workstation variety: Agile workplaces provide a variety of workstations, such as standing workstations, quad desks, and open seating, so there’s something to fit every employee’s tastes. Some even include fixed seating options for those who request one.
  • Comfortable seating: Seating areas and collaboration spaces for informal meetings, brainstorming, and breaks should be comfortable and welcoming. These areas sometimes replace formal meeting spaces.
  • Breakout zones: Many agile offices provide breakout zones, which are seasonal outdoor workspaces and shared spaces. Adding plants to make your outdoor area “green” could help improve morale and the mental wellness of employees.
  • Meeting rooms: Some agile work environments still include small or large meeting rooms for formal meetings. These often feature lounge tables for comfort.
  • Touchdown spaces: Small stations designed for short bouts of productivity give employees a spot to send or check emails, upload files, or complete other quick tasks. These spaces often feature a standing desk and a charge station.
  • Quiet areas: Agile work environments can get loud and distracting, especially for employees who need quiet time to work. Offices can solve this issue by setting up quiet spaces for private work, complex tasks that require intensive focus, and employees who need them.
An agile floor plan is usually open, comfortable, and modern. And, like agile working practices, these environments help encourage employee engagement so that each team member can produce better work more efficiently.
Those who work in technical and creative fields often need quiet, spacious areas to focus on detailed work. And with minimum constraints paired with agile practices, they can do just that. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see employees spend days wearing headphones to block out noise or working with just one person on a project.
Note: Agile work environments often go hand-in-hand with hybrid workplace models. It can help to check out hybrid office design inspiration if you’re designing the space yourself.

How to Shift to an Agile Work Environment

Office design projects work best when you discuss the plan with your employees so that you have input from your teams. Since you can use office design to build company culture, choosing the best layout for your office is essential.
Focus groups, one-on-one discussions, anonymous suggestion boxes, and team meetings are excellent ways to ensure your employees’ ideas are considered for implementation. And if you look at the who, what, when, why, and how of each idea, it’ll be easier to decide if it fits.
It may help to visit existing agile working environments to see how other organizations and teams break out of the traditional and into something more adaptable. You may even want to bring stakeholders or team members along for additional perspectives.
The more you can involve your employees, the better, as an agile work environment will demand a mindset shift throughout your existing work culture. If you’re concerned about disrupting the workflow within your office during the transition, consider hiring an agile consultant to make the process easier.

Ready to Design Your Agile Workplace?

Redesigning your office or designing a new space is always a big undertaking. But today’s employees prefer flexible workplaces that allow them to work when and how they choose, so shifting to an agile work environment is often well worth the effort. From cost savings to improved productivity, it’s hard to argue with the benefits.
If your head is spinning from trying to design your agile workplace, check out our Design My Office page to get custom recommendations for your space. This feature works with corporate and home offices of all sizes. It can help you find high-quality ergonomic chairs, desks, accessories, and cost-saving bundles to keep you on budget.

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