I have spent a lot of time over the last few months meeting with clients, prospects, partners and industry experts to discuss how Serraview can provide quick and effective solutions to enable the move to an agile working environment. In those discussions, I have unearthed some interesting misconceptions, as well as agile working benefits that go beyond dollar savings.
Misconceptions About Agile Working Environments
1. Agile is seen as “the future of workplace management”
My contention is that agile working is here now, and will simply expand to a larger number of organizations, business functions and geographies in the (very) near future. Agile working enables employees to work where, when and how they want – the goal is to provide an environment that enables employees to work the most effectively.
2. Agile environments are noisy and reduce privacy
The real intent of agile working is to provide occupants with options for where they can work (and how). This means that optimal agile environments provide appropriate space for many different types of working: individual, activity based, remote, collaborative etc. Appropriate quiet areas are defined (and tracked for usage) as well as providing adequate space for commercially sensitive operations.
Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?
3. Space is underutilized
“Our space is 60% to 80% utilized” is often the gut reaction when asking occupants what their utilization rates are. The reality, as evidenced by recent research from CBRE, is that although space is typically 90% allocated, it is only 49% utilized. This is across all types of real estate. Data can prove the actual measures that mere perception will often muddy. Data can also help the real estate departments socialize ways in which utilization can be increased, and establish the appropriate ratios to ensure users of the space have a desk to work at when needed.
4. Agile working is just a cost cutting exercise
Many people look at agile working as a means to reduce the cost of their real estate. While this is typically a result of implementing an agile working environment, it is not the only driver or benefit that can be derived. One of my favorite comments of recent note was a real estate leader for a major financial institution who stated that “giving up my office has afforded me the option to have 250+ other places where I can work.”
Point 4 is where I want to focus this post, and to do so I want to first set the scene for how we have gotten to where we are.
The Limitations of Historical Metrics
Real estate has been driven for a very long time by two core metrics:
- Cost Per Square Foot
- Square Footage Per Person
These metrics have been core for as long as I have been in the industry (18 years and counting). But as the markets have developed, technology has improved and ways of working have changed, the deficiencies of these metrics have been exposed.
The downside of managing based on cost per square foot is that in order to improve the metric results, the only real option is to move to cheaper space. In terms of square footage per person, the most common way to increase the metric is the densification of space. Neither of the solutions above are popular with occupants – essentially moving to worse space or squeezing more people into what currently exists.
Cost Per Person: The Key Metric for the Agile Environment
There is a new metric that I see as core to managing in a modern, agile working environment, and that is Cost Per Person. Cost Per Person allows companies to focus on how space is actually being used. It does not matter what a company is paying per person or what each person is allocated to if they are not using the space. Cost Per Person also allows companies to factor in all workers: fully assigned, partially assigned, contractors (if desired) and remote.
5 Agile Working Benefits Beyond Pure Dollar Savings
Agile working enables companies to reduce their total square footage, and more importantly (in my opinion) free up funds to improve the quality of the workplace. Recent studies have shown that the workplace is a core driver in the following critical corporate objectives:
1. Attraction of talent
PwC’s 2014 Global Talent Survey found 63% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills. The workplace is one of the most visible representatives of a companies’ culture, what it stands for and how it operates. Workplace is a core driver in a candidate’s decision on what job opportunity they wish to pursue. We are in an environment now where there are 4 generations in the workplace, so the workplace support structure has to be different in how it appeals to the preferences of the diverse workforce.
2. Retention of talent
In the current working environment, most companies are in competition to keep their best performing and most highly skilled workers. The skills needs of employers are arguably more homogeneous, with every company having requirements for high demand skill-sets such as e-commerce, web and app development.
3. Increased productivity
When people have options as to how and where to work, there is a correlation with increased output. Harvard Business Review found that 86% of the most highly engaged workers report that they can choose where they wish to work within the office according to the task at hand.
4. Reduced sick time
Wellbeing is worthy of an entire article of its own (watch this space!) and is greatly enhanced when employers are committed to providing a workplace that promotes health and well-being – from provision of ergonomic devices, to healthy food options and facilities to exercise, these factors can help in reducing employee sick leave.
Related article: Workforce Health: Is Your Workplace Helping or Hurting?
5. Employee engagement
A WorldatWork survey found that “85% of organizations with an established flexibility culture reported a positive or extremely positive impact on employee engagement.” Establishing this culture is often a challenge as it can require a mindset change by management as to how different work styles are perceived, and management by observation has to become less prevalent.
Recommendations for Implementing Agile Working
Adoption and implementation of agile working environments is here now, and shows no sign of slowing down. As more and more companies implement programs, across a multitude of functions, the benefits are being realized.
One of the largest impediments to implementing agile working is having the right tools in place. Technology can provide evidence through hard metrics about what the optimal ratio planning and utilization rates should be. Companies also need technology to support the cultural challenges of adopting agile working. When removing a traditional office environment for employees, it is critical to advertise all of the agile working benefits and provide technology such as wayfinding, and including smart-apps, to ensure the transition is seamless.
Learn more about the technology needed to implement agile working in this informative guide to Managing Workplace Utilization.