Corporate real estate professionals understand agile working benefits: the company stands to cut property costs significantly by optimizing space and reducing footprint. At the same time, this workplace strategy can help to attract and retain talent, boost engagement and productivity, and even increase innovation within a company.
However, at first your employees and managers may not be fully convinced that the move is in their best interest. After all, you are taking away the private offices and desks that many have worked at for years. Even though they may complain about them, people may be emotionally attached to their workspaces and even feel a sense of ownership. That’s especially true of managers who feel they have earned their private offices and worry that their status within the company is being reduced.
That’s why, to achieve all of the touted agile working benefits, your workplace transformation must do more than simply reduce workpoints. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make in moving to an agile working strategy is failing to reinvest in the workplace to improve the employee experience. When you are taking something away from employees, it’s essential that you give back workplace features that facilitate productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being.
Gaining agile working benefits: how much to invest?
Your business needs to decide what to reinvest back into the workplace and I would recommend 10% at a minimum. Remember the aim isn’t to just reduce costs, it’s to attract, retain and ENABLE the best people. That’s especially true for knowledge-worker driven businesses. It’s your people who will drive your next innovation and big revenue gains.
Moving to a flexible environment provides the agile working benefits mentioned above, and also helps you pay for your modern workplace along with investing in overall business requirements.
Here are some ways that companies are multiplying their agile working benefits by improving the employee experience.
5 ways to increase agile working benefits by investing in employee experience
1. Use technology to get neighborhood designs right
To get the agile working benefits you expect, each neighborhood fit-out needs to accommodate the needs of the teams that will be using it. That means you need to have a deep understanding of how each group works, what they need to accomplish, the types of spaces needed to do their work, and how many people are using which spaces each day. Asking people what they need is a great start, but doing that is not enough to provide the accurate, timely data you need to improve the employee experience in the workplace.
A better way is to invest in utilization tracking technology (such as IP networks) and a modern workplace management system. Various types of IP networks collect data about how and when your employees are using work spaces. A workplace management system designed for agile working aggregates the sensor data along with your occupancy information, and makes it useful for making workplace design decisions that make employees happier and more productive in the new space.
Here’s an example. Imagine being able to pull up a floor plan with a heatmap that shows you exactly how & when spaces are being utilized throughout the day, week or month? You might find that the phone booths people asked for are rarely used, but people are spending a lot of time gathering in the kitchen. You can then take back the under-used phone booths and convert to a team collaboration lounge.
Find out more about utilization tracking technology and how you can use it to maximize agile working benefits and improve your employee experience: Managing Workplace Utilization.
2. Consider investing in flexible furniture
I want to make one point clear: you can definitely move to an agile working strategy in an existing workspace without spending a lot of money on new furniture. However, investing in furniture that’s easily customizable for everyone’s health and safety needs can be helpful for improving employee experience.
When everyone has an assigned desk, they are able to adjust the space to meet their individual needs and preferences. For example, by setting computer monitors at a certain height and adjusting the chair to a comfortable position. When they no longer have an assigned seat, you need to give them the same ability to customize the furniture. The difference is, they will have to adjust it each time they move to a new workpoint. So, be sure to choose height-adjustable desks, monitor mounts and chairs that are quick and easy to adjust to gain the agile working benefits you’re looking for.
While you’re at it, it’s smart to get some flexible, breakout furniture for collaboration spaces as well. That way, the area can accommodate multiple uses as your business needs change (as they certainly will).
3. Personal storage is a must (for a while)
When people are asked to give up their desks, one of their biggest concerns is, what will I do with my stuff? When they are accustomed to relying on lots of paper files and being surrounded by their family photos and other personal items, doing away with that all at once can be a shock. And if you’re expecting this new environment to make people more productive and collaborative, you won’t get those agile working benefits by forcing too much change all at once. People need some personal storage space… for now.
Here’s a secret you don’t have to tell your employees just yet: they won’t always care so much about personal storage space. As your culture matures, people become less dependent on paper files, and they find other ways to express themselves in the workplace without desk clutter. For now, you must invest in locker space or even individual storage bins so people have easy access to some of the things they are used to having around. But rest assured, after a while those bins will never come out as people become comfortable with the new mobile way of working.
4. Add tools to help people find their way in the agile space
Besides wondering where they will keep their things after the move to agile working, the other issue employees worry about is how they will find a desk and how they will find the colleagues they are used to sitting with. Here’s my advice: you need to challenge their ingrained habits on one hand, while also making it easy for them to move around in the new space. It’s essential to make sure agile working benefits your employees as much as the company.
When I first implemented an agile working strategy, we didn’t yet have the advantage of modern desk booking and wayfinding systems. So I invented a manual way to track people’s locations: they used magnets on a white board to record where they were sitting. However, I saw that people still tended to sit in the same area with the same team members. One of our goals was getting different teams to mingle and collaborate more, which would not happen unless people felt comfortable moving around.
So every Friday we changed things up with a game that encouraged people to sit somewhere new, just to get them to feel more comfortable moving around. But that white board was always there to help them choose a desk or to find a colleague.
Today, of course, modern wayfinding technology makes that process much simpler: people can find a desk, a meeting space or a co-worker in seconds using a kiosk or a mobile app.
Watch this video to see how wayfinding tools work: VIDEO: How Can Wayfinding Technology Shape the Employee Experience?.
5. Implement employee health and well-being programs
Which agile working benefits are critical to you? Does your company want fully engaged employees that produce more, collaborate more, and create innovation that drives business success? Accomplishing that goal is not only about attracting and retaining top talent, but also improving their well-being in the workplace.
That’s why so many companies are implementing health and wellness programs that support and nurture employees so they are at their best. In addition to the agile working benefits, these programs also have the added benefit of reducing absenteeism and lowering healthcare expenses. According to CBRE, 91% of companies they surveyed expect to increase their workforce health and wellness programs.
Investing in workforce health is about much more than adding a gym and removing junk food. Read these related articles about how workplace impacts health and well-being:
Workforce Health: Is Your Workplace Helping or Hurting?
11 Active Design Ideas to Improve Wellbeing in the Workplace