Agility training—seven ways to master agile workspace design

Agility training — seven ways to master Agile Workspace design

Agile workspace design will help attract and retain talent, reduce real estate costs and grow any business. But beware of the pitfalls. Here are our top seven tips.
  1. Consultation = ownership

Any change to environment can be disruptive to people who spend half their lives in it. Some will feel it more than others. So most agile refits go hand-in-glove with a culture transformation to some degree. To help you avoid employee culture shock, get employees involved at the start of the process. It will make it much easier later on. If employees feel like they have a say in what's happening they’ll feel like they have some ownership. Read about how this works with practical workplace consultancy examples.

  1. Zones and levels

A major aspect of what we mean by agile workplace is the variety of levels, spaces and settings. ‘Putting in the levels’ is what we call it’. This ensures you don't have a sea of furniture the same height. Instead, you’ll have low sofas, high desks, benches, booths, stools, coffee tables, sit-stand desks and community tables. You’ll have different spaces and settings too, spread across four zones (focus, collaboration, social and learning/meeting). Read more in the zone theory.

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  1. Change champions and satisfaction surveys

So, you’ve consulted the people before the design, you’ve had the refit and everyone has moved back in. From here it’s not business as usual. We advise conducting a satisfaction survey and have a champion (for people to talk to) in the office for the six months after the refit. It doesn't have to be a new role, just someone who people can confide in about the changes. Because change can be more disruptive for some than others, and you may not want to lose loyal, long-serving staff.

  1. You don't have to go the whole hog

A semi-agile working environment is a thing. Lots of factors will dictate how far you go with the agile approach. The percentage of introverts and extroverts in your workforce is one. Headcount forecasting is another. Budget, obviously, is crucial, but don’t let that stop you creating an environment where your staff want to be. Increasingly, companies are finding it harder to attract new staff if they don’t have a modern and well-thought-through office design.

  1. There is a cheaper option

If you can't afford the upfront workspace consultancy element you can assess occupancy and employee desires anecdotally, update furniture and reduce headcount desk ratio accordingly. Also, a lot of older offices still have clumsy, dated furniture that was designed for huge PCs and monitors, so you may be able to improve the aesthetics by bringing in more modern furniture, which will not only help provide a boost to morale but also will save you some space.

  1. Agile by design

Agile office design has its origins in the values and principles of agile working. If you’re contemplating an agile workspace fit-out, you might be considering some agile working ideas. But, remember, there is a huge difference between ‘doing agile’ and ‘being agile.’ To get the best from it you need to adopt an agile mindset, not just pick and choose practices used by agile teams. That said, it couldn’t hurt to look at visual project management (think Spotify and Google), hold more quick stand-up meetings in temporary areas (when it makes more sense than booking a meeting room) and use that new collaboration furniture, the social sofas and focus booths.

  1. Carefully consider the noise

Long gone are the days where everyone and everything was crowded into one big space (or herded into cubicles) with no real research behind it, and without offering any choice. Today’s agile workspace designers have thought of everything, from sound-absorbing wall panels and acoustic ceilings to zone planning and proxemics. We know about the effects of noise on concentration for introverts and extroverts, how it impacts productivity on different job tasks and, most importantly, we know what workers actually want (because we ask). Today’s agile workspaces feature better acoustics, more options for working environments and, as a result, better creativity, productivity and employee wellbeing than ever before.

And finally, as agile coach, Belinda Waldock, says: “Agile by name and by nature. So, take an agile approach to agile. If one practice doesn't work for you, change it. Make small, incremental improvements. Don’t change everything overnight. It’s not about a big bang. And don't let go of the steering wheel. A lot of people take agile too literally and throw the plans out of the window. Being agile doesn't mean you don’t have a plan. It’s about being able to adapt the plan as you go.”

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