Office environments: Manage the shift to agile working.

Changing the working culture of an organisation and embedding that change into long term behaviours can involve a significant upheaval for some. You will have those employees that embrace it, early adopters or evangelists if you like, and those that cling to old ways of working, struggling to adapt.

The organisations that have adopted agile working successfully have done so because the change has come from the top. The senior management team has devised a strategy that demands change and put the tools in place to make it happen. Even those businesses that choose to use flexible working, without the full force of agile working, should do the same. It’s this mandate and direction that leads to staff feeling empowered and autonomous, able to embrace new working methodologies. Without this, it is much harder to realise any real return on investment in process, technological infrastructure or environment.

A recent study about the impact of 4G revealed that 22% of workers believed their management hadn’t really bought into the idea of flexible working even though it was ‘on offer’ and 19% of workers viewed remote working as coasting. Only 36% of people offered flexible working were actually using it, despite a clear majority (70%) recognising that flexible working makes for happy staff who stay in post for longer. These figures highlight what happens when new working styles aren’t embraced fully by those at the top. Agile working is centred on trust. Companies must trust employees to make the right decisions about their working behaviours and give themthe autonomy to make these choices for themselves.

A key principle to ensure that staff accept and ultimately embrace this change is through training. Staff should receive a full induction into the new ethos, how it impacts them and how to use the space and facilities to maximum effect. Staff workshops and orientation session can go a long way to bring people on board.

In agile working environments it’s particularly important to ensure that collective identity and a sense of belonging are preserved, somethign that can be achieved with effective office interior design and brand expression. Moreover, individuals need to be reassured that in this new context there will always be a space to work from, and that they will always be connected to their team. Whilst new ways of working present a substantial shift, if managed effectively the many business and individual benefits will eclipse any temporary upheaval.

Of course,it helps if you understand your workforce and can identify where the evangelists and the resistors are most likely to be. That should inform how you manage the change.

For those of the X (born 1961-81) and Y generation (born 1981 – 2000) technology and the idea of agile or mobile working is an extension of self. They are more comfortable with change, flexibility and technology and are likely to be proponents of agile working. X and Y generations expect to be free range, the boundaries between work and home are less pronounced, they want the flexibility to change their environments to suit their needs and expect more stimulation from their surroundings.

By way of comparison the older generation of baby boomers (born 1945- 1964) have spent most of their careers as battery hens, working in silos, stuck in one place. It’s this group who may well be the most wary of organisational and indeed workplace change. As a nation with an aging working population, it’s imperative to consider how you take your whole organisation on the agile working journey.

Download the full ‘Introduction to Agile Working’ whitepaper for 6 top tips to embracing agile working and discover what agile working means for the physical office environment and for practical advice on how to achieve agile working success including 6 top tips:

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