5 Tips for Companies Moving to an Agile Office Space

Ian: Hi, my name’s Ian Morley, Serraview Co-Founder & Chief Evangelist. Today I’ve invited Jo-Anne Mann, Serraview’s new Global Head of Client Success to join us. Hi Jo.

Jo: Hi, great to be here.

Ian: Welcome, thank you. Jo comes to us with over 15 years of experience in the corporate real estate field, most recently working at Suncorp Group on their corporate real estate strategy and the design and implementation of their agile office space. Jo, I’m sure you’ve got a million tips that you could share with us for companies considering moving to agile working, but can we focus on the top tips you’ve got, insights and secrets that might help companies moving to an agile office space?

Jo: Absolutely. It’s a big journey and I do have a lot of information I could share but let’s try and focus it.

1. Consult your business about their needs for the agile office space

The first tip I would talk to would be, one size does not fit all. I think it’s probably one of the mistakes companies make when they start this journey to agile office space, they come up with a model for their organization or they get a consultant in to tell them what it should look like, and they don’t actually have any discussions with the business.

So, at Suncorp we came up with a model, through research, that looked at how many of our staff were there at any given time. We came up with a ratio of ten to eight; so that means for every one hundred people you would have eighty desks. Once we started talking to the organization and the different business units, we found that size wasn’t going to fit all. So, you will have to have those discussions and alter your model accordingly. Doing that will actually help with the buy in and getting people on the journey to agile office space as well.

Related topic: Activity-Based Workplace Design: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

2. Plan for change management

The next tip I’d like to share is around change management. Moving to agile office space is a huge change to try and implement and adjust the mindset of people. From a change management point of view, you have to look at how long is it going to take you to affect that change, and then how are people actually going to manage through that.

Leaders are really affected by this change. In most traditional work environments, they’re used to having their staff out in front of them. In an agile office space you have distributed workforce. So how do you support your leaders and help them manage without their staff right there in front of them every day?

Give people choice in an organisation, in an agile office space, without knowing how to manage then you have chaos. So, how do you manage that with staff? There will be lots of things that they throw up around workplace health and safety, around hygiene in the workplace, so there are some things you’re going to have to do. At Suncorp, we managed it through a twelve-week implementation plan, but it took us another 12 months to get the maturity of people to understand this environment.

Ian: That’s good to understand.

Related topic: 9 Steps to Implementing Change in the Workplace: Agile Spaces

3. Reinvest in the workplace

Jo: Next, you need to think about your reinvestment. From a total dollars point of view, you could save a lot of money. So, if you’re doing a business case there are big benefits to be had from moving to a more agile office space, but then what are you going to reinvest, and what are you going to give back to your people?

When you move to an agile office space, what you’re doing is taking away the ownership of any particular desk. Employees have been there for years, it’s always been their own space, what are you going to give them back?

You do need to reinvest some money back in to improve employee experience, so if you’re going to save thirty million, maybe reinvest at least ten percent back into your business units.

4. Invest in technology

At Suncorp, we had to invest in a couple of things – our technology wasn’t great, so we had to look at what to do from a technology point of view. We also didn’t know where our people were in any of our buildings. So we used Serraview as a tool to look at our occupancy, where are our people now, how space was being utilized, and how can we consolidate our space.

Learn more from this white paper: Managing Workplace Utilization

5. Supporting Leadership

The last key tip I would leave you with will be supporting leaders. If you have good leaders in an organization they will embrace this change to agile office space really well, and be able to manage through it. If leaders aren’t prepared you’re going to have big problems with agile working. Of course you’ll have both in every organization, so look at a leaders program. We had to define what were our leaders’ biggest pain points were going to be and how will they manage through that, and then support them every step of the way.

Ian: Interesting, very interesting. How did you deal with those challenging leaders that you may have come across?

Jo: There’s been a few of those, I think most of that was sitting down with them and learning what they were most nervous about, and then giving them some tools to manage that. For example, you can use tools like Microsoft Skype for business that enables them to track where their people are and actually have conversations while they’re not in front of them. How to manage through change, how to manage conflict, and even right down to how are they going to meet their targets. How do I check on their performance is another key question from a leader’s point of view. It’s how to manage that and giving leaders the right tools to be able to do that in agile office space.

Ian: Very interesting, some good tips there. Thanks for joining us, and I really do hope you come back for a future segment.

Jo: I look forward to it.

Ian: If you do have any questions for Jo, please do reach out to us over Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter using the #AskSerraview.

Ian: Thanks again. I hope to see you next time.

Jo: Look forward to hearing from you.