Creating an agile workspace: how facilities managers can help

Agility can help a company meet the evolving needs of its workforce, while controlling costs and gaining a competitive advantage through greater customer focus and innovation.

Agile working is much more than flexible working, says a new report from office specialist Anabas. It involves a transformation in the way that people approach their work.

An agile workspace can support collaboration, innovation, knowledge sharing and job satisfaction, and if facilities managers understand the workers and their needs, they can adapt the environment to suit.

The Anabas White Paper – What Type of Office Worker Are You? The Evolution of Agile Working – cites the example of Lego, which has even created a department for ‘New Ways of Working’.

“As a company they have embraced the concept of ‘Activity-Based Working’ (ABW),” the White Paper explains. “Areas are set aside for focused work, learning, collaborating or socialising. Trust is paramount in an ABW workspace given that employees are able to exercise discretion about their own visibility. Senior leadership, likewise, has to demonstrate a commitment to the new way of working.”

Reporting on the success of ABW at Lego, Senior Director Sophie Patrikios said: “In our May 2016 survey, 88% of staff said they liked the choice of where to work. They get a choice of different settings to suit their activity or mood, including a quiet library, a buzzing social area with background music, comfy chairs in cosy corners or big banks of desks to share with team-mates.”

While such office innovations won’t suit every employee, they can help people avoid sitting in the same place for hours on end, promote engagement at work, and encourage face-to-face communication and team working.

With routine process-driven work being automated thanks to computing and AI, the modern office will increasingly need to support creative activities that only humans can undertake.

Amongst other things, the report found that:

  • Face-to-face and team working will eclipse computer interaction in the office;
  • Computer-based working will increasingly be undertaken in remote locations (e.g. home or satellite offices); and
  • Organisations will encourage diversity in work styles in order to get the best out of any team collaboration.

Anabas Managing Director Alistair Craig said: “FM (facilities management) is no longer just about the fabric of a building, it is about the people within. By taking the time to understand workers within an agile environment and what makes them really tick, FMs are becoming gardeners, rather than architects and instead of just managing a pre-designed space, they will be able to manage, nurture and cultivate the people and the place, to create a harmonious agile workspace.”

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