What are the benefits of working agile?
At first glance, it seems ridiculous for hordes to commute to cities after Covid-19 so they can all sit down at their desks at exactly the same moment.
If our entire work day is spent looking at screens, why does it matter where you physically are?
And what does that mean for the future of the office that some now consider a relic of Victorian work practices?
According to some, the future will be agile working – a mix of collaboration and team meetings in the office and remote working.
> See also: What is an agile work environment?
Agile working is nothing new – as with many other aspects of our lives, the pandemic only accelerated what was happening anyway.
When the pandemic broke out, ASDA distributed its thousands of employees at headquarters back to their homes.
Simon Halkyard, ASDA Headquarters Resourcing Manager, said, “It’s amazing what you can do when you’re forced and don’t have time to think about it. Should this be the new normal, even after the lock has been released. Why limit your business to only having people in one location when you can reach a nationwide company? [or even global] Talent pool. We now have proof that this is possible. “
“I can’t see people going back to the nine-to-five,” says agile employment consultant Paul Allsopp of The Agile Organization. “The future is already here.”
> See also: Remote coronavirus: am I covered by home contents insurance?
What is agile working? How Can It Help My Small Business?
One of the reasons why agile working is difficult to define is that there is no one size fits all. It means different things to every company.
Unilever defines agile working as “an approach to doing work with maximum flexibility and minimal restrictions. It goes beyond flexible working or teleworking and focuses on removing the barriers to working efficiently. “
Others have called it “Martini” and work, as in “Anytime, Anywhere, Anywhere” for those old enough to remember the old TV jingle.
For Allsopp, whose clients include the London Stock Exchange, BNP Paribas and the NHS, working agile means reacting to change for every small business.
Allsopp says: “It is a cultural and way of thinking to prepare for change and to be ready to work differently. We are caught in a 20th century mindset. What the pandemic has given us is a real boom. “
Before any small business owner delves into the concept of agile working, they may need to ask themselves the following questions once the pandemic has subsided:
- What was my employees doing from home?
- What experiences has the management had at home?
- Has working from home affected my customers and suppliers?
- Which parts do we want to keep – and why?
- Which parts do we want to discard – and why?
- What kind of organization do we need to be in the future?
- What do we have to do to achieve this new version of ourselves?
What are the benefits of agile working for a small business?
As with everything, there are pros and cons to working agile for any small business. Here we outline the advantages:
# 1 – Flexible workspace
There is agreement that in the future companies will turn to a WeWork-like co-working space model with customizable workspaces and flexible meeting rooms and workspaces.
The purpose of the office will be to come together for collaboration and teamwork instead of being nailed to your desk with a mix of physical and virtual presence, predicts Allsopp.
“The question you have to ask is what is the purpose of the office? An office shouldn’t just be about desks. It’s about activity. We’re talking offices in terms of desks and owning desks instead of screens. The idea that you have to have a wooden board with your place name on it dates back to the 19th century. “
A more flexible approach will attract younger employees who are used to a less rigid work environment. Google, Unilever and BT have created exciting workplaces for employees while maintaining an excellent reputation as employers. Highly skilled employees who realize they are valued and trustworthy stay loyal, stay longer, and work better. The freedom that comes with agile working can be a major draw for talent acquisition.
Conversely, however, Allsopp believes that employers may need to rent more office space to meet Covid social distancing needs and to spread the workforce.
Allsopp says, “The demand will be for flexible office space, but how are we going to deal with people’s fears of going back to the office, and how does this lead to regular thorough office cleaning?”
# 2 – Reduce your carbon footprint
Empty office spaces are constantly lit and cooled, which creates CO2 even when nobody is around. Designing a new office is an opportunity to create a greener and smarter office environment. This can significantly improve sustainability while reducing a company’s costs and carbon footprint.
# 3 – Increased productivity and responsiveness
Agile working makes a company more competitive. If you do away with nine-to-five hours, customer response times will be faster when a company has more flexible working hours.
Another benefit of agile working is the elimination of presenteeism – the requirement that employees must be present, regardless of whether they have presence of mind or not.
# 4 – Increased Innovation
Agile working is the key to increasing creativity and innovation in the workplace. Effective office design can help stimulate diverse, less regulated thinking and more creative brainstorming.
What are the disadvantages of agile working for a small business?
Of course, agile work also has disadvantages.
# 1 – Territorial Disputes
When the Australian advertising agency abolished desks and introduced hot desking, employees broke out in so-called “lawn wars” for their seats. “We are very territorial animals,” admits Allsopp.
In the face of the pandemic, fear of contagion makes some employees reluctant to introduce “hot desking” and move to a new desk every day, even if it’s just a cold.
# 2 – ergonomics
While working from home may be suitable for some, for others it means having to sit on a shared kitchen table or being forced to work from bed – terrible for your posture – or a laptop on top Support ironing board.
Once the pandemic is suppressed, companies are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, even if they work from home. This should require them to carry out house reviews as well as compliance with data protection regulations by employees.
Allsopp says: “You have to make an assessment. This is fine for short periods of time, but as a company you are responsible for health and safety as well as IT support and data security. “
Conversely, a temporary visit to the office means setting up your computer every day. This can be a problem if you don’t have the right kit.
# 3 – How do you manage people remotely?
This is probably the biggest problem any business faces. Managers cannot measure how their responsibilities are being carried out if they cannot physically see them.
In addition, newcomers and younger employees must be brought together closely, regardless of whether it is about coaching or mentoring or dealing with a new job.
Allsopp says, “A lot of office cultures were about risk averse management worrying about how employees should be controlled when they were not around. It was all trust. “
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