3 Challenges of Moving to an Agile Working Environment

Mar 11, 2019

You’ve done the research and you’re sold on the benefits of an agile working environment. So far so good; you’ve joined the estimated 70% of UK offices planning to make the jump by 2020.

But what challenges can you expect to face on your way? The internet is full of articles eulogising the agile workspace, but interior design companies are often less forthcoming on the potential snags involved in implementing it. So, in the interests of redressing the balance a little, here are the most likely stumbling blocks you’ll face en route.

1. Staff Resistance

Aversion to change is a natural part of the human psyche. Think about the last time you implemented even a minor change in your workplace, chances are it was met with at least some resistance. The simple truth is that this is only likely to be more pronounced with a change as fundamental as adopting agile.

Switching from a traditional workspace demands a lot of your staff. Not only does it involve a profound cultural shift, but it also requires staff to change – often deeply ingrained and long-held – working practices. Fixed-desks and clearly demarcated personal spaces have been features of the office environment since, well, since offices have been in existence. So, it’s completely understandable that removing these is outside a lot of people’s comfort zone.

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Now, of course, an agile environment is likely to provide more in the way of benefits to your staff than difficulties. You know this, we know this, but do your staff? If not, it’s your job to make sure that you get team onboard, early. Very few transformations are completely effective without everyone pulling in the same direction, and if your people aren’t sold on the change it’s unlikely to deliver what you hope.

But how do you get them there?

  • Listen: It might sound simple, but the most important thing you can do to get your staff on board is listen. What are their greatest frustrations with your current space? What would they really miss if you removed it completely?

    For example, if some staff really do need private spaces then scrapping them altogether is unlikely to go down well. Asking these questions not only demonstrates to staff their opinion is valued, but it’ll also help you create an environment that works for them. Hosting a workplace consultancy can be a great way to achieve this, as a thorough approach will include a staff surveys, interviews, and workshops. 

  • Engage as much as possible: The involvement of your staff shouldn’t stop at canvassing opinion though. It’s no secret that people generally feel more invested in things they’ve been involved in, and the move to agile should be a collaborative process, not a top-secret project.

    You should seek to engage employees from all areas of your business throughout the project. Canvass opinion, take suggestions and make your staff really feel part of the process.

  • Recruit champions: Even if you listen to feedback and involve staff as much as possible, there will always be some employees who remain sceptical. Likewise, every workplace has those employees who, once convinced of the merits of a course of action, will really go to bat for you. If you can get the latter on board with the benefits of switching, they should be able to convince even the naysayers to at least keep an open mind.      

2. Choosing the Right Supplier

This is a crucial one to overcome if your transformation is going to remain cost-effective and deliver the best possible outcome. Dependent on whether you’re refitting your workspace or moving somewhere new, the list of suppliers you’re going to need is somewhere between long and gargantuan. In no particular order, the average agile fit-out requires designers, planners, project managers, new furniture, fixtures and fittings, finishing touches, and a way of moving everything.

Using a separate supplier for each element can get messy and expensive, quickly. And, with so many different parties in play, it can be easy to lose sight of who’s actually driving the project – leading to scope and budget creep. Instead, you should look to work with a partner that can help you with as many aspects of the process as possible; from the initial consultancy stage through design and fit-out, and even furnishing the finished space  – an approach proven to save up to 30% and deliver the project up to 40% than individual contractors. 

3. Knowing What’s Best for Your Business

While there is a defined agile methodology, an agile working environment should never be off the peg. Your business is unique and so are the things that will ultimately make the project a success. So simply doing away with all of the private spaces in your office, throwing in some Scandi-inspired furniture, and declaring every desk a hot desk is unlikely to work if that’s not the right environment for your business.

Figuring out what approach is likely to get the most from your people and space is partly instinct – after all, you know your business better than anyone – and partly a process of deduction. Where the latter is concerned, it can be helpful to have a trained eye assess your not just your workspace but also the way your people work within it.

An interior design company with a good workplace consultancy service shouldn’t just be able to tell you what’s likely to work based on experience with previous customers. The process should include a thorough assessment of current pain points, how productivity can be improved, which areas of your space are being underutilised, and how to future-proof your office for growth.

Making the move to an agile environment involves so much more than the physical. Without melding practical, well-considered design with the right culture you’re unlikely to reap the rewards in full. To learn more about the benefits of making the leap, as well as how to get started, download our Office Move Checklist.

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