What is an Agile Workspace and How it Works?
Agile workflow has been dominant over the last decades, as it proved to be an efficient method to work with large-scale projects, dynamic industries (such as AI, app development, etc.), and ever-changing requirements. And as in life where one thing leads to another – another term was flipped – Agile workspace.
1. The Agile Work Environment
The Agile project management methodology is used successfully in many, many fields of business today and is particularly popular in the area of software and web development. There are many different Agile-based methods, including the well-known Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming. They are proven to be efficient and produce results, and this is achieved with a great deal of flexibility. The teams working on selected tasks in the project are empowered in both the planning and delivery stages and are given all the tools and conditions to be able to meet these demands.
These tools and conditions, therefore, must include the working environment. This is not only a physical space for work but also the way that space is designed and organized to enhance the working experience and also the Agile working philosophy.
The Agile method is inherently flexible and open to change, and to meet these demands the workspace should be planned around this central idea. The space can be managed to suit the activity, not the activity to suit the space. Agile is also highly visible, team members know and are in tune with what is happening around them and in the project in general, so this has to be considered.
It must also be taken into account that Agile methodology is entirely suitable for the ever-increasing remote work. However, the work environment is important here, too. It is important to have an organized, visible well-structured online space for communication and collaboration to take place.
2. The Benefits of Agile Working and the Environment to Help
Agile offers freedom for employees. The current activity or task dictates the team, the group, the organization of the work, and even the location. With Agile, it is necessary for the work environment to adapt to the team and individual needs. The Agile workspace needs to be arranged to accommodate this changing nature from one project to the next or one task to the next. This could involve providing space for the movement of desks or rooms for meetings.
Everyone wants employees to be happy at work. There are practical reasons as well as your morals. Increased worker satisfaction equates to higher productivity and longer job retention. Thus, it drives more revenue and saves money on recruitment, training, admin, etc. Creating a space where the employees feel they have control, a degree of independence and the opportunity to use their skills to their full potential is vital. It is also important as we will see to create spaces where the team member can interact on a more social basis, again fostering a team spirit.
Communication and collaboration
Agile is very much about a cross-departmental integrated culture. People working together, utilizing their own specialisms and skill for the success of the whole project. The highly visual nature of a typical Agile workspace allows this collaboration and communication to be really effective. We are talking about shared spaces but also visible progress boards and visual tasks.
Agile does not have the traditional management hierarchy, although in some forms of Agile there are defined roles. This means that Agile is more transparent in planning and decision-making. The working environment should reflect this. No enclosed meeting spaces, lots of movement and light, no management-only spaces. The environment helps create a single-minded, focused team all facing the same way.
Agile is a dynamic, fast-moving methodology. It is often seen as a breakaway from traditional values(even though it’s been around for quite some time). The workspace needs to help generate this energy and make this a good, pleasant, fun place to work. It should appeal to potential new employees, as well as make the present staff feel passionate about the place they work and the company they are working for. Apple and Google are fine examples of how office space can build a company culture.
The flexibility of Agile, alongside the new ways of adapting the work methods to new situations, can mean that you actually need less space in a building or office than before. This is because you can use the more flexible spaces in a variety of ways, within minor adjustments, so there is no wasted space. Consequently, a business will save on overheads such as utilities and maintenance, and even rent.
3. Key Features Of An Agile Work Environment
The main point of an Agile workspace is to make the Agile work methodology more efficient and productive. For these reasons, the workspace needs to allow for quick and easy communication and collaboration and be flexible, yet well structured.
Typical fundamental principles that combine to make the workspace agile are relatively obvious:
Allow for Access
Agile is based on accessible workflow, and this needs to be matched by the workspace. Open spaces to allow a physical flow from one area to another, minimum walls and barriers that separate all encourage a more dynamic, flowing environment.
Comfort in the workplace helps the workers relax, not just on breaks but actually during the working processes. This involves the furniture and decor but also things like temperature, customization, and branding. They all go hand in hand to increase the feeling of home.
Peace and Quiet
Much as there is an obvious emphasis on movement, flow, openness, and collaboration, there does have to be space provided for focused, private, quiet work. There is a time when workers need to work without interruptions and without background noise or murmur. It is vital that within these work environments, there is designated space for this kind of work. It is equally important to designate spaces for private meetings or communications.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Spaces, in general, are much more adaptable now. Technological innovations such as Wi-Fi and Smart Tech have added an extra layer of flexibility. Although this may not be enough, it certainly helps. We have to also consider how easy it is to adapt spaces for size or different types of tasks. How warm is the light? Are all spaces equally comfortable and accessible, or at least can be made so? Is the furniture and furnishing moveable without a team of fitters coming in every few weeks?
None of these aspects are in themselves difficult to achieve, but the key is to design the whole space with Agile in mind. A cross-functioning workspace.
4. What You Need in an Agile Working Environment
1. Collaboration and Collaboration Spaces
You will need dedicated meeting spaces and places where teams of different sizes have room to work together. Ideally, this should include several different-sized spaces as meetings are common and essential, and team sizes can vary. You do not want one specific meeting room or collaboration space, as often different teams are meeting at the same time. It is also better to have small or medium-sized cubicle spaces rather than rooms that can feel cut off. And you need variety so a team can choose the space most appropriate for the task. Not all teams require much space, but sometimes it’s essential to have multiple boards and huge desks, especially if someone is presenting a concept.
2. More Private workspaces
There must be a balance in the Agile workspace, even though open spaces look “cool”. There are times when it is important to get away from the crowd, to work individually or with a much tighter group. This is why it is vital that the general open space Agile work environment has quieter, more remote areas. These shouldn’t necessarily be far away or sealed off from the other staff, but it should be more like specially designed corners away from the main “hub.”
3. Informal Working Areas
It isn’t always best to be chained to one place, even when involved in a single task. Movement and informal areas should be encouraged. The movement itself helps stimulate the brain, and gives you more context of the overall working conditions and colleagues. It helps break up the day. If you can factor in some spaces which are not directly work-related but are still working spaces, then this is all to the good. Sometimes, changing the room and catching up with other colleagues might give birth to a bright idea!
4. Relaxing Non-working Areas
Breaks are important. They produce happier and more productive workers, they should not be seen as a necessary evil. An ideal Agile workplace should incorporate non-working areas into the fundamental design. These could be areas for quiet contemplation or a catnap, computer game areas, canteens or coffee areas, gardens, balconies, and even a tennis table. The idea is that it is a place where the team can switch off from the routine and come back refreshed. Of course, this also plays a vital role in the creation of a team, socializing your staff, and establishing the bonds of team building that will produce a much better working atmosphere.
As the Agile workspace area should be made-up of all of these components, there needs to be some design flair and style in bringing them together and making them work for you and your employees. Make the workspaces light and airy, natural light is better than artificial but technology is improving even artificial light all the time. Design can make a large open plan space feel like separate areas. Think of moveable walls, separate colors for different spaces, greenery (well kept) is always popular. It’s a chance to create something special where your employees are proud to work.
5. Changing to an Agile workspace
If you are starting from scratch, you have the perfect opportunity to put your mark on things and design with Agile in mind from the very beginning. If you are changing a building into an Agile workspace, it’s not so easy. However, it can provide you with great opportunities to get your staff on board from the off. But it is just as important that you get the environment right. Agile is a methodology that requires a change in the whole mindset of business and project management, and the workspace is the most obvious representation of that.
With Agile, there is a strong emphasis on “everybody being in it together.” If your staff is actively involved in planning the workspace, it puts you in a strong position. You can plan the environment as you would plan the project. Outline, input, idea, consideration and consultation, decision. Group meetings, questionnaires, and brainstorming sessions – try to get the staff’s ideas.
6. Tools and Technology to Help
Creating a space is one thing. Creating a space and making it usable is another. You need to ensure employees have the tools available for any task that is given. But what you also have to ensure is that these tools can work in a flexible environment. Wherever the team chooses to be is a workspace that can function like anywhere else. Here we can obviously list things like high-quality wi-fi internet connections, electrical sockets, mobile coverage, etc. But there is more:
Organization of space
How easy is it for your team to find what space is available and where that is? This can be tricky for very large organizations, but wayfinding tools or location services will help you plan ahead.
Video Conferencing & Meeting tools
Remote working is likely to increase, and therefore video meetings with colleagues as well as with clients are sure to follow this trend too. Of course, it’s essential that you have the right conferencing and meeting tools but bear in mind that in an Agile working environment, this technology needs to be available where you want it. All areas should have access to video conferencing software, and private areas should be available for one-on-one meetings.
Workplace Management Software
Having a good workplace management tool gives you access to the data that you’ll need to run your project successfully. It also makes it far, far easier to manage your team. This is as true for an in-house team as a remote team.
Sensors of lighting and heating can save money in the long term and add a level of comfort to your space. Especially in large open spaces, the utility costs can be significant, not to mention affect your green credentials. Sensors can provide a degree of control and provide data that will enable you to make savings. It is also possible to use things like time and desk sensors to track your team more efficiently.
7. Agile Workspace Concepts for Remote Workers
Whilst the key concepts here are primarily about physical space, the increase in remote working is not to be neglected. Technology allows remote workers greater flexibility than ever in both their location and hours of work. What needs to be accepted is that the workspace in Agile is not only about the physical workspace. The ideas here are equally applicable to the organization and layout of software packages that remote workers use. Visibility, communication, video meetings, collaboration tools, break-out rooms are all aspects of modern-day packages. These allow remote workers to mirror the office situation.
Desing of the modern workplace players a significant part in worker happiness and satisfaction, this much is clear. In the design of an Agile workspace, this is also true. However, with an Agile workspace, the design does much more than just appear fancy. It shows your employees that they are a significant part of your organization and everyone – from the cleaning lady to the CEO, are working toward the same goal – the growth of your business.