What Is an Agile Workspace? Does It Makes Sense for Small Businesses?

From Silicon Valley and beyond, the agile workspace is all the rage. But before your small business deconstructs the cubicle walls, you should have a good understanding of what an agile office really looks like. Here are the pros and cons.

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the rise of the agile workspace

Workplaces have their own aesthetics and personalities. They can feel more like living organisms than inanimate office spaces. Examples of these are all-remote offices, coworking offices, posted-up-at-coffee-shop offices, and many other more traditional, cubicle-based workplaces. Which bring us to the rise of what’s called the agile workspace.

This recent trend might seem like a fad– perhaps it is, or maybe it’s the realistic future of our workforces. But before your small business deconstructs the cubicle walls, you should have a good understanding of what an agile office really looks like.

What is an agile office?

The “agile office” is a way of using a working area more efficiently; it typically utilizes a non-assigned seating model to foster collaboration and maximize space.

Beyond the popular trend of creating an open floor plan, an agile office also operates on tenets that workers need both open, collaborative time with coworkers as well as quiet, more private areas to individually focus on and execute projects.. Martyn Freeman, managing director of Mitie’s facilities management business, told Forbes, “in an agile environment, ‘work’ becomes an activity rather than a place.”

(And it appears to be accomplishing all of these goals! Check out this exploration of how agile working has impacted this workplace workspace.)

According to this Allwork. Space, there are five main components to an effective agile office:

  1. An open floor plan. This physical openness allows for easy collaboration between employees, increases the amount of natural light to enter the workspace, and is an extremely efficient use of space. However, the cons of an open floor plan include the potential for an extremely loud environment, distractions from deep work, or difficulty with private conversations.
  2. Breakout areas. These are spaces that can be used for many purposes and are intended to foster creativity beyond the confines of a typical conference room. They allow space to eat,  relax, and create areas for employees to have ad-hoc brainstorm sessions. Again, potential negatives could be difficulty with confidential conversations or noise if clear guidelines of use are not put into place from the start. Areas like these could consist of tables, booths, couches, collaborative desks, etc.
  3. Quiet zones. These are also known as hot spots for focused projects, on-demand concentration, or confidential conversations. Quiet zones require careful oversight so that they are respected by all members of the team. These areas should have some kind of boundaries, like cubicle walls.
  4. Touchdown areas. These are spots for overflow workers to utilize, especially if they’re only in the office periodically. They can be used for short tasks, like answering email or knocking out quick assignments. These touchdown areas could consist of bar stools along a counter or a shared couch., Keep in mind that these workstations are not ideal for long periods of sustained work and are not designed for that purpose.
  5. Easy access to resources. Employees should have easy access to essential resources like physical documentation, equipment ,supplies, printers, and copiers when needed. However, be cognizant of where these resources are stored; in an agile workspac,e it’s important to eliminate as much noise intrusion as possible. Ideall,y these won’t be set up too close to work areas.

Does transitioning to an agile workspace make sense for your business?

An agile workspace doesn’t have to be a huge investment in furniture, structures, etc. as it’s heavily rooted in minimalism. However, it does require some planning in terms of what feels organic to your organization and what type of space will fit the nature of your work best in terms of collaboration.

More than anything, transitioning to an agile workspace can make a considerable impact on how your employees work and send a strong message to outside visitors, clients, or potential hires of your business’ commitment to collaboration, openness, creativity, and productivity.

If you would like to shift your office culture and foster more creativity and collaboration, it may be the right choice for you and your employees. However, if it’s implemented too hastily or for the wrong reasons (e.g. you want your company to join the growing trend), you may need to take a step back and reconsider your motivation.

The agile work space is not just trending because it can be aesthetically appealing, but because it’s crucial to certain types of collaborative work. As in many circumstances, it’s a good idea to survey your employees to determine if they’re open to such a change and if they think their work would be enhanced or hindered by this type of layout. Perhaps it’s time for a change!

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