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Flexibility in the workplace is winning more friends

01 February 2018

Every individual will have their own view on the ideal layout and features that should be included to create their optimum workspace and the more realistic – and therefore more practical – of these will inevitably see a number of common denominators.

Whether it will prove feasible for these to be considered by FMs when planning for future upgrades or relocation exercises can only be considered on the merits of each individual exercise, of course, but there is an increasingly noticeable acceptance of how greater levels of productivity and efficiency can be achieved by creating a modern working environment.

Anyone researching the latest approach to workspace organisation cannot have failed to notice how this has developed from the focus on well being to the more recent discussion on how to implement agile working within the workplace.

Although any upgrade or relocation project will be subject to budgetary constraints, the growing number of modern workplace environments including aspects of agile working shows that this is a trend that is likely to continue to expand.

Commenting on the question of whether awareness of agile working benefits is growing, Where We Work workplace director Graham Bird believes this has “most certainly increased”, and this is largely due to the varied methods of workplace analysis that are now available.

“More and more businesses are now able to use the evidence gathered in workplace studies or audits to demonstrate the issues that exist in a working environment,” he says.

“They can then accurately measure the success of any changes made in response to these findings. This means that stronger evidence can be presented to demonstrate the success of agile working methods and the benefits it brings.”

With stronger evidence comes increased awareness, he continues, especially when the benefits are wide across the organisation.

For example, organisations can perform studies that will reflect precisely how an agile working model specifically benefits the availability of real estate.

“By reducing desk allocation, we can release space and assess the immediate benefits this brings – be it to the staff or the bottom line of the business. Post occupation evaluation reports also provide strong evidence of staff experience, presenting the ways in which agile working has positively influenced the way in which staff work,” he continues.

Organisational departments are also demonstrably reaping the benefits of agility, as workplace churn is reduced and therefore HR and IT departments no longer face an upheaval when staff move to another desk location.

“Those that measure the success of agile working – and how a building and its people are performing alongside it – will ultimately discover its benefits. As we get progressively better at workplace analysis, we can provide stronger evidence that supports agile working and – as a result – awareness of its benefits will inevitably continue to grow,” says Mr Bird.

With all areas of business acutely aware of the need to control cost, the FM sector has been the subject of being seen as an area where money can be saved, often without thought of the consequences this may have on the facility in question and the people that use it.

Adopting a different approach, such as agile working, can therefore help to turn the conversation in a different direction.

KI Europe group managing director EMEA Jonathan Hindle provides his view on the theme of encouraging a different focus:

“The benefits of agile working until recently have been associated with cutting real estate costs, rather than enhancing worker wellbeing.

“As worker needs and expectations evolve, employers are increasingly viewing their offices as a valuable asset. In order to improve productivity and employer branding, they prioritising human-centred design over cost cutting,” he continues.

Concurrent to the proliferation of agile working practices, workers and employers are also becoming aware of its challenges, says Mr Hindle. Agile working suits some people and tasks more than others.

“Employers must be careful to develop a workplace strategy that best suits their desired company culture, dramatic changes like this often require extensive preparation and careful execution in order to realise the potential benefits.

“A general rule of thumb in any case is to ensure plenty of flexibility in an office landscape that is rich with variety and choice, so that everyone can find a work setting that suits their tasks, personal preferences and job roles,” Mr Hindle concludes.

Anabas managing director Alistair Craig says flexible working has become a fundamental part of the modern workplace and the practice of agile working is being increasingly embraced and continuously evolved.

“Our recent white paper, What Type of Office Worker Are you, explored the evolution of agile working and helps to rediscover what it means to be human in the workplace, focusing on understanding individual behaviours, work styles and how they influence interaction within the workplace itself.

"As the modern workplace continues to evolve, so does the way in which we approach our work,” he says.

Emphasising the need for a diverse environment, it is vital that FMs understand behaviour in order to guide effective FM delivery within an agile environment and despite the challenges in managing this, the benefits are plentiful.

Agile working embraces collaboration and is so much more than flexible working, he continues. It involves a transformation in the way that people approach their work and helps organisations to recognise and encourage different work styles.

Technology now enables working from virtually anywhere both outside and within the office environment.

“Agile working is a hot topic in the FM industry and is one that will remain for many years to come.

"It has changed the way the workplace looks and feels and the way in which FM is delivered, offering greater opportunities to respond to customers’ increasing expectations,” says Mr Craig.

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