A Peek into the Future of Agile Work Environments
By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
Just as many businesses were beginning to consider agile operating concepts, the business world took the full brunt of a global pandemic. Suddenly, agile wasn’t an opportunity to get the edge—it became a means for survival. Non-traditional shifts, remote work, flexible workspaces, and other agile elements became standard practice overnight. Now, businesses are starting to think beyond them, to the future of agile work environments.
Is the traditional office dead? Is the workplace shrinking or expanding? What’s the new definition of an agile workspace and will it continue to evolve as we enter a new norm?
There are many questions concerning agile work environments—perhaps more than there were before the pandemic, when the concept might’ve been novel to many companies. To understand where the agile office is going, let’s sneak a peek at how current forces are shaping demand for the workplace of the future.
More remote employees need fewer in-house seats
More people than ever are working from home right now, in a trend that’s likely to continue indefinitely, pandemic or not. As fewer people occupy in-house seats, companies will begin to consolidate and change their physical workplace. The shift to agile workspaces is an obvious one.
- Traditional seats become hot desks or hotel desks
- Individual desks disappear, replaced with breakout and team spaces
- Room sizes shrink and workplaces become more open
- The lines between workspaces and the greater workplace blur
Fewer in-house employees and fewer dedicated spaces open the door for agility in the workplace. The reason? There are fewer obstacles to broad workplace utilization. Fewer people are contending for the same spaces and there are more opportunities for workspace diversity.
How employees use the workplace is changing
Agile work environments maximize space utilization and efficiency, and give people access to the entire office by taking away their anchors. Agile seating is a natural replacement for assigned seating because it allows employees to interact with the workplace on their terms. Instead of sitting and working in a way that’s not conducive to their work style or schedule, they’re free to leverage the workplace as a resource.
Agile workplaces introduce broad opportunities for experiential work. For example, a conference room is no longer the only place to collaborate. They can start in the conference room, flex into a breakout space, break off into teams that collaborate over a bench-style workspace, and so on. Work follows people in an agile workplace, instead of forcing employees into specific parameters.
Sanitizing and hygiene remain top priorities
Even pre-pandemic, open workplaces faced sanitizing and cleanliness obstacles. In agile workplaces—where movement is ongoing and cross-exposure is inevitable—there’s an even bigger emphasis on sanitization that will linger longer after COVID-19. Employee safety and comfort hinge on their perception of a well-maintained workplace.
People may not wear masks forever, but things like electrostatic spraying and sterile wipe-downs will persist in agile environments. Janitorial and cleaning regimens will remain stringent. Offices redesigned with social distancing software during COVID-19 will linger as personal space becomes built into workspace design. It’ll all culminate in agile environments that buck hygiene and cleanliness critiques. If there’s one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s the cognizance and emphasis surrounding hygiene—especially in shared spaces.
Technology is the means to broader agility
It’s impossible to talk about the future of agile environments without mentioning the technologies used to govern them. While workplace management technologies are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were even a few years ago, they’re primed for even more significant advancement. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and AI will all aid in the transformation of big data.
In the same way agile environments take employees out of boxes and bring them into a broader workplace, facility managers need to de-silo data to glean insights about how employees use the workplace and what they expect from it. These insights will drive better decision-making about how to structure workplaces to unlock even broader agility. The goal? Real-time oversight and actionability that reduces friction before it has a chance to escalate. Everyone gets the experience they need from a workplace designed to adapt.
The future is flexible and agile to boot
Regardless of a company’s stance on agile workplace pros and cons, there’s no denying the winds of change blowing in favor of agile environments. Remote work, technology, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 are forcing businesses to be flexible, and that flexibility demands agility. It comes full circle in adaptable workplace designs.
Agility is almost certain to be a prerequisite for the workplace of the future. To harness it, facilities managers need to pay close attention to the needs of their employees and the expectations for their work environment. They’re certain to see a natural demand for flexible, agile workspaces.
Keep reading: What Are the Advantages of Flexible Work Environments?