Since the Pandemic, everyone is talking about agile working. It can mean very different things to different people – from being able to work anywhere at any time, to setting up more of a neighbourhood feel within the office space.
At its fullest it means providing your employees a fully flexible working environment where they can work equally effectively in collaboration in a shared space, in a mobile manner, from a hot-desk or more commonly now, from home.
Firms’ motivations for adopting agile working practices before the Pandemic were many and varied. Maybe they wanted to reduce costs by optimising space and downsizing, or for it to be part of a strategy to upgrade to more attractive, modern workplaces to attract and retain employees, or just improve overall productivity. These drivers are still relevant but the pandemic forced employers to accelerate any agile working plans resulting in nearly 50% of the UK’s workforce working from home for most of 2020 (Office of National Statistics), without much preparation.
Most organisations are now considering a long-term hybrid working strategy and are offering employees the opportunity to permanently adopt a agile working attendance model.
Research by Forbes and the Project Management Institute found that the majority (92%) of executives believe that organisational agility, or the ability to rapidly respond to market conditions and external factors, is critical to business success.
And a survey of 500 executives by PA Consulting found that the top 10% of financial performers are 30% more agile than the rest. It says they achieve this by focusing on their customers, speeding up time to value, designing for simplicity, building to evolve and liberating their people.
It is no surprise that many organisations are now looking at sustaining a flexible and agile working approach to future proof their businesses and to avoid reverting back to old habits. As facilities managers you’re likely to be tasked with delivering this vision as people begin to return to the workplace.
Here are four considerations for facilities managers in this position;
1. Communication is key - managing expectations
Generally speaking, staff retention and talent attraction can be boosted by developing better facilities and offering flexible working models. However, most people tend to resist change and so if you are planning to take away personal workstations in return for hot desks and lockers, and remove filing storage and fixed desks, you may come across some barriers. Working with a workplace consultant can help you to understand the type of work people are currently doing and how they may need to work differently in the future, which will help you to determine your future environment.
Communications that explain the benefits of any changes to people as individuals, not just the business, are key. Involving members of the team in decisions about décor, or which locker suits them, can help diffuse resistance to change. Encourage your senior leaders and comms teams to start these conversations sooner rather than later so you win hearts and minds.
2. How will people access the documents and information they need to do their jobs?
While most organisations adapted to not having filing to hand during the pandemic, which saw digital-first working soar, it could be that staff still need to access physical paper files and folders - how often and whether a digital version would suffice might be unclear. An audit of current storage will inform this process. Interviews with key members of different teams, from support functions such as legal, HR and finance through to the teams that deliver your revenue, will tell you how much of this legacy paperwork needs to be retained, how much can be scanned and stored online, how much is a duplicate of what already exists digitally and what potentially can be securely destroyed. This audit stage is vital to understanding how much room will be needed going forward as office design adapts for flexible working options.
3. Are your business processes fit for purpose?
At the very least, an agile environment should enable people to work in different parts of the office, alongside different teams, or remotely, according to the task in hand. Fixed telecoms, personal workstations and filing cabinets are all anchors that encourage people to work in one place, which is why so many firms are replacing them with mobile or soft phones, shared desks and lockers. But inbound and outbound paper correspondence also creates friction in business processes - and wherever possible should be upgraded to digital. If this doesn’t happen, paperwork will still be created and circulate in the business.
4. Is your existing technology sophisticated and flexible enough to support agile working long-term?
Many organisations already have the technology available to support agile and remote working however, uptake can be low and understanding the reasoning behind this is essential. During the Pandemic, technology was adopted in a way it never has been. In the legal sector, case management technologies were utilised more than ever before with lawyers wanting to avoid physical transfer of files to fee earners at home and instead opted to share case information digitally - the digital file being the single source of truth. This resulted in a significant reduction in paper usage and has forced a traditionally paper dependent sector to think and act differently for the first time in decades.
Agile working creates many advantages for organisations but brings with it a lot of implications for Facilities Managers tasked with helping to sustain it. Help is at hand from our Workspace Consultants who can support you with services from audits and business process improvements to the physical office layout changes required to help you to achieve your objectives.
The next step? If you are in the process of a business transformation project, be that moving to agile, downsizing, flexible working, managing an office refurbishment/relocation, or simply running out of space in your working environment, our workplace consultancy services will give you an overview of where you are, how you compare to your competitors and give you a road map of the steps you need to take to optimise your workplace. Find out more.