The ultimate guide to building an agile work environment

Oct 20, 2022
If you’re not agile, you’re fragile. Learn what an agile work environment really means and how it can transform your business.
Amy KirkhamEnvoy Logo
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni
Marketing Specialist

The term “agile” has been a buzzword within the workplace for years. It has revolutionized the way people think about work. It’s a concept that embraces flexibility and encourages an iterative mindset to getting things done. In fact, agile has been so successful that it’s now a way of working that 71% of US companies have adopted. But just like the workplace, it’s also a concept that’s evolved over time. While the traditional sense of agile centers around how we work, agile is also now used to describe the physical workplace and layout that supports this style of working. An agile working environment replaces the traditional office by breaking down barriers and offering a multi-purpose and flexible space for people to use. In this ultimate guide, we will explore how you can build an agile workplace that’s right for your organization and for your employees. We’ll cover:

  • What is an agile work environment?
  • Who does an agile work environment work best for?
  • Benefits of building an agile work environment
  • 4 tools to build a healthy agile workplace

What is an agile working environment?

An agile working environment is a type of workspace that gives people flexibility in how they work. It encourages people to move about the office and make use of the variety of different spaces on offer. An agile working environment encourages collaboration and creativity by breaking down traditional office barriers. For example, replacing permanently assigned desks with hot desks supports an agile working environment because it offers folks the option to choose where they sit. This helps to bring more coworkers closer and happier together when onsite. An agile working environment will be unique to your organization and company culture. You will need to build it based on what workplace policies you have in place and what your employees’ needs are. Not every feature of an agile workplace might work for you–and that’s ok. However, there are a few characteristics that all agile working environments share. An agile working environment should always be:

  • Adaptable. Your agile working environment can accommodate different working styles. Think flexible furniture, technologies, and workplace policies. For example, you may choose hot desking as a key feature in your agile work environment. This means employees can book their desks when they plan to be on-site. When fewer people are in the workplace, you can move desks to accommodate other space types like social areas or quiet zones.
  • Accessible. Few things are more frustrating in the workplace than not being able to use a specific space for what you need. Your agile working environment will enable employees to utilize spaces in your workplace without hassle. Tools and technologies work together seamlessly to enhance people’s experience. For example, agile workspaces may use an agile room booking system, a technology that allows people to easily book rooms in advance or whenever they need it.
  • Iterative. Your workplace improves as folks learn what spaces work best for them. Data plays a key role in understanding space utilization, so workplace teams need access to tools that provide real and historical space usage data. These analytics provide a holistic view of how people use your work space so you can improve it.

Is an agile working environment the same as a hybrid working environment?

Although an agile workplace goes hand-in-hand with flexible working, it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with hybrid working. Yes, they are similar terms and often used interchangeably. But it’s important to remember they each have different goals. Hybrid working supports flexibility in where people work. It enables folks to split their time between working from the office and working from home. An agile workplace, on the other hand, supports flexibility by offering people the choice in both where and how they work within the office.

Who does an agile work environment work best for?

Your agile work environment is a flexible work environment. When done right, it works best for everybody in the workplace. Full-time or part-time, hybrid, or 100% on-site–creating an agile work environment will enable everyone to use the workplace when and how they need it. Your employees can leverage tools like office hoteling to choose where they sit in the office for set periods of time. They can also use meeting room tools to plan out their on-site days and maximize collaboration and productivity with others.An agile work environment promotes team collaboration, too. Spaces are flexible and therefore have multiple uses. This means that if your team wants to get together, an agile working environment enables you to collaborate and brainstorm together in new and creative ways by choosing different areas. This could be a meeting room with a whiteboard, or a social area with couches.Finally, an agile work environment is the dream for workplace managers. Real-time office use data and hybrid work policies help employers right-size and maximize office space as employees rotate their days on site. This saves overhead and maintenance expenses without sacrificing productivity.

Benefits of building an agile work environment

An agile work environment supports employee choice and flexibility. So it’s no surprise that it comes with a lot of benefits for your organization. An agile work environment will help you:

Maximize space management

An agile work environment enables you to optimize your office layout to work better for you and your employees. This not only means finding use for empty or unused spaces in your workplace, but also thinking about how your physical space will need to change as different employees and teams use it. For example, fitting your kitchen area with chairs and tables that are easy to move around will help others use that space for something else. This could be things like happy hour or company-wide presentations.

Promote productivity and engagement

When folks can work in a way that suits them best, productivity and engagement will inevitably rise. An agile work environment offers people full autonomy over how they work. For some, this might be making use of quiet spaces where they put their head down and zone in. For others, it might be sitting close to coworkers to share ideas on the fly. The more you can create a physical environment that supports individual focus and flexibility, the more your employees will engage with their work and be more productive.

Save on costs

Behind salaries, office rent is the highest expense for organizations. And while some offices may have sat empty in 2020, folks are back at work in higher numbers than ever now. Coupled with flexible work policies, businesses are figuring out how to reduce overhead costs on unused and vacant space. This might be downsizing or reducing the number of floors. Or it could be looking at your existing workspace to see how better planning can result in cost-saving.

Encourage collaboration between coworkers

In a traditional work environment, there are permanent desks (or cubicles, depending on how traditional you want to get) and meeting rooms. This traditional structure allowed for easy separation of different needs. Meeting rooms for collaboration and discussions. Permanent desks for heads-down work. Nowadays, the modern office is more flexible. An agile work environment utilizes tools and space to rebuild parameters so work isn’t restricted to a fixed location. Folks can move around easily, along with their ideas. By building an agile workplace, you encourage folks to collaborate when and where they need to. This might be making use of breakout spaces to socialize and take some time away from the screen. It could also be a meeting room that coworkers have reserved to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project.

4 tools to build a healthy agile workspace

To make the most of your agile working environment, you need the right tools. But in a world of so much choice, how do you make the right decision? Here are a few must-have tools that will help you build a healthy and successful agile workplace for everyone to enjoy.

1. Hot-desking

Hot desking is a flexible seating arrangement where folks can reserve a desk for the day. This offers employees maximum flexibility when they visit the office. Employees might be on-site to collaborate on a project, to get in the zone, or to just work from a different space. Because hot desking is often short-term and on-demand, folks can get the maximum level of flexibility when they work from the office. What’s more, they can normally book through a mobile app while on-the-go for maximum agility!

2. Agile room booking

Booking a meeting room used to be a clunky, unreliable, and often frustrating experience. But not in an agile workplace. Agile room booking streamlines the room reservation process by utilizing the power of technology. It offers employees flexibility in finding the right meeting space for their needs so they can do their best work while on-site. Agile room booking differs from traditional room booking because it offers flexibility in how you book. Room booking technology allows you to book a room in advance, on the fly, on a mobile app, or as a dropdown in your calendar.  That means that when folks need a meeting room, they can easily find and book available spaces from their laptop or mobile devices. They can also check-in and check out of meeting rooms, so when you finish early you can free up the space for others to use.

3. Office hoteling

Office hoteling is a flexible way of reserving a desk or room in your workplace for a set period of time. As the name suggests, hoteling operates in the same way as an actual hotel. You make a reservation, you check-in, you complete your stay, you check-out. Very similar to hot-desking, office hoteling supports an agile work environment by giving employees the option to book desks whenever they need to. Unlike hot-desking, office hoteling allows employees more flexibility in location, length or stay, and the size of a desk or room.

4. Workspace analytics

Last but not least, you’ll need a way to track how your agile workplace is actually being used in order to iterate and improve. Workspace analytics is important as people return to work. It will give you visibility into what spaces your employees are using most and how they’re using them. As the data comes in, you can then iterate and optimize your agile work environment. For example, if you’re finding that meeting rooms are fully booked a lot of the time, then you might want to encourage employees to make use of breakout areas for 1:1 discussions or more informal meetings. Alternatively you might want to include some meeting pods that people can make use of for calls or remote meetings.

There’s a lot to love about working in an agile workplace. When used correctly, it offers employees maximum flexibility and allows them to work in a way that works for them. This is an ultimate win for organizations. Happier employees bring about a whole host of benefits: improved productivity, better results, and longer retention to name a few.Building an agile workplace takes work and investment in the right tools. Interested in learning more on building an agile working environment?

Check out our workplace platform ebook and learn how to transform your business into a more flexible, enjoyable workplace for all.

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AUTHOR BIO
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

Amy is a content creator and storyteller at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people will love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy exploring new places, planning her next trip, or enjoying a coffee and croissant in her favorite cafe.

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