The world of work is changing rapidly. Even five years ago, the traditional office consisted of cubicles, people working a 9-5 with employee engagement at the very bottom of a list of priorities, if at all. The explosion in technology and a shift in focus for those in charge has led to more and more people working from anywhere but the main office.
There is no longer a need for everyone to sit at their desk for eight hours a day, and the work-life balance has become much more important. And that’s where agile working comes in.
What is agile working?
Agile working focuses on creating a flexible working environment. It relies on the business and those in charge to empower their staff to take control of their work, conducting it whenever and wherever suits them best. It requires a great deal of trust between parties, with a strong emphasis on technology.
Pros of agile working
If you’ve ever desperately wanted to hire someone but they were unable to move to work in your office, then agile working could be the answer to your problems. Get them on your side and then work towards agile working, and you can say goodbye to your old strict hiring criteria and broaden the horizons to some of the best people in the industry. If you’re a small business or a start-up that can’t match the high salaries of the big boys, then agile working and additional benefits can be an incredibly strong pull for new hires.
This willingness towards agile working shows that you are committed to the work-life balance, which can be a tremendous boost to productivity and employee wellbeing. As people become more aware of their mental health and maintaining a good balance between their career and home life, showing you are a big supporter of this will keep staff around for the long term.
Cons of agile working
Many people who have adopted agile working have raised concerns about their future in businesses. Perhaps they work more flexibly than others, for example due to childcare commitments, and aren’t able to be in the office as much. They may be worried about a lack of facetime with those in charge, and worry about how this could harm their progression.
Finally, agile working relies on everyone having the same technology. If someone’s computer isn’t up to scratch or if their broadband is lagging behind, then they are going to have trouble keeping up and delivering their work.
How to work on agility
Agile working cannot work without strong and effective communication between employees and their managers. There needs to be a two-way conversation where everyone stays updated on what the other is doing, and how that fits into the larger plans. Without this communication, and without the ability to stroll across the room to ask someone a question, projects can be delayed and fall apart if people aren’t aware of one another’s work.
The second thing needed to make agile working a success is trust. Micro-management is proven to be one of the biggest killers in productivity, and can actually lead to a drop in employee engagement and, worst case scenario, people finding employment elsewhere. While it may be difficult, those in charge need to loosen the reigns and put their faith in people, trusting that they know how to do their jobs best.
Finally, there needs to be considerable efforts made towards ensuring everyone has access to the technology they need to make agile working, well, work. Shared desktops, chat systems and “whiteboarding” spaces where people can talk about work and annotate documents as if they were in the same room will all come in handy. A robust cloud-based system will also be needed to store everyone’s work, along with reliable computers to avoid crashes and broken tech.