What does agile working mean for office interior design?

Agile working means we have to rethink the working environment. Fostering collaboration, innovation and teamwork, whilst at the same time empowering people to make their own choices about how and where they work, requires a bold approach to office interior design.

Businesses that have adopted agile working completely, have really thought about how employees experience it – that’s about the cultural experience AND physical office design, all supporting flexibility and autonomy.

Agile working takes the view that work is where you go (i.e. a specific desk or office) and broadens our understanding to include a wider range of locations that we choose to go to in order to ‘get work done’. This means that today’s agile working environments require multiple settings for the different ways we work.

Of course, this isn’t to say that individual desks are defunct. Just that an office full of rows and rows of desks and nothing else, is. Today’s employees need more variety, not only to support the work they’re doing, but to meet their expectation of modern workplace environments.

A key element which unites all these settings and allows them to work as one overarching office environment, is technology. Well integrated reliable, technological solutions which support this level of mobility and interactivity are vital to its success – whether that’s within your workplace environment, at another office, home or while traveling.

Examples include:

  • Kitchen table type settings support project work and team meetings
  • Soft seating and breakout spaces are ideal for brainstorms and informal meetings or just to relax
  • Quiet pods provide space for reflection and private study
  • Touchdown spaces give home-workers and those passing through a base, somewhere to log-on and re-charge
  • Private rooms accommodate client meetings

Auto Trader is a perfect case study. The Claremont Group Interiors team is helping Auto Trader bring seven offices into one 600-strong head office in Manchester city centre. Agile working is at the heart of the move and follows an already seismic shift in the business’s strategy, having moved to a digital platform and ceasing its print publication after more than 30 years.

The business recognises that its future success is dependent on a more collaborative, communicative and flexible approach and that agile working, technology and workplace design are fundamental to its cultural reinvention.

The design of the new workplace environment is based on flexible ‘squad zones’ in an open plan office, which comprise unallocated workstations and a plethora of social, touch-down and one-to-one spaces to support its varied and diverse groups of staff. Auto Trader’s vast product and technology development team, which forms nearly half of the staff moving to Manchester, work in squads and use lean office techniques, expressing much of their process visually. The size of these squads flexes in line with business needs and so the space must do the same.

The new environment will support staff in a move to a more autonomous and liberated working style. Staff are free to move from zone to zone, a consequence of not having an allocated desk, to choose the most appropriate space for the task. On each floor plate free-standing pods, workbooths, informal collaboration spaces, touchdown, gallery space and enclosed meeting rooms cater for every conceivable work need.

Vehicles are at the heart of Auto Trader’s business so the design also includes six vehicles as informal meeting spaces. Coated in a ‘clear erase’ finish these cars become write-on surfaces and an extension of their expressive and visual culture. The success of the new office environment is dependent on employee experience and as such all staff will be fully inducted into the building and trained on how to use the space to maximum effect. Pilot products have been installed and trialled and a series of staff workshops are being conducted. This is as much about explaining the company’s vision and strategy as it explaining the ethos behind their new environment. A post occupancy review will provide the ultimate proof that the new office environment enables agile working.

Download the full ‘Introduction to Agile Working’ whitepaper for a full explanation of agile working, what it means for the physical office environment and how to manage the shift to agile working:

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