71% of U.S. companies have adopted Agile practices.But, for a company to incorporate the Agile mindset, they have to forget everything they know about traditional project management and the Waterfall approach.
The Agile Manifesto has brought a huge change in how people work, so it only makes sense to move away from the Waterfall model and adapt to this change by restructuring your environment to help facilitate the new agile approach.
That’s why working in sprints is only the first step in Agile. To foster this transformation, it helps to create an Agile environment that enables flexibility and supports the working style of your team.
In this guide, we’ll go through what is an Agile work environment, the types of Agile workspaces, and the benefits and challenges that come with adopting this new style of working.
What is an Agile Work Environment?
An Agile work environment is a modern workspace that promotes flexibility and collaboration within product teams. In an Agile workplace, people aren’t arranged as they are in a traditional office – assigned to a desk or cubicle working eight hours a day.
Rather, an Agile space is a working environment where teams can freely move around and utilize whatever space they find around the office, wherever they can work the best.
As opposed to Agile methodology – which has more to do with the way people work and approach projects – an Agile work environment focuses on how people get that work done.
This means that organizations have to move away from the traditional office space and utilize the entire space by offering a variety of workspaces for team members to work the way they see fit to achieve their objectives.
Although Agile work environments mainly deal with creating a flexible way of Agile working, they are also used to describe hybrid workplaces. A hybrid workplace takes into account not only the Agile teams present in the office but also remote workers to improve collaboration between the two.
For that reason, an Agile work environment often includes coordinating both office and remote workers to maximize productivity and enhance team performance.
Features of an Agile Workspace
You may have previously explored the idea of providing more flexible working options for your team. But having a flexible workspace isn’t enough to keep your team on their feet and ensure the best results.
For an Agile working environment to be successful, it should empower teams to collaborate, communicate, and think effectively.
Below are some of the essential characteristics that should be included in every Agile working environment.
Emphasis on Collaboration
Agile thrives on collaboration. Collaboration is also one of the twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto: “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”
To promote a more collaborative workspace, businesses should design offices that help teams come together for brainstorming sessions, to discuss strategies, and reflect on both successes and mistakes.
A common way to encourage cross-functional collaboration is to break down barriers between departments and create a variety of open office spaces where team members can communicate with each other.
Open and Private Office Space
However, having open offices may not always be the best option to increase productivity and team performance.
Open-plan offices work great for improving cross-functional collaboration, but sometimes team members need their own space to think freely and explore ideas.
To help workers explore their creative side and focus on their work, businesses should use a combination of open and private offices to maintain a healthy balance between transparency and solitude.
Not everyone welcomes a second opinion from their colleagues, so having an office where they can explore their ideas alone can be a great way to prevent burnout and increase creativity.
An Agile workspace should encourage innovation. Innovative ideas and techniques are the driving force behind increasing the competitiveness of a business, but your employees can only unleash their creative potential if they’re located in the right environment.
Design spaces in your office where people are allowed to experiment and explore creative ideas.
This can be an informal office space where someone can go and brainstorm ideas and discuss tactics without any external input.
Accessible Remote Working Options
Remote work is on the rise, and more employees have started to prefer working remotely over in-person work at the office. But it’s common for these workers to feel left out of the conversation.
Remote work not only benefits employees but also has a positive impact on organizations. It only makes sense to include them in your team to maximize output.
To accommodate remote workers within the Agile work environment, businesses maximize their use of video conferencing tools. These tools should be easily accessible by all members of the organization and the same tool should be used consistently to avoid any problems/conflicts with communication.
When your employees are tired from the long working hours, they deserve to take a break. Allowing your team members short breaks and providing them with exclusive unwind zones can help improve employee satisfaction and boost productivity.
Relaxation areas can be simple areas that enable workers to enjoy some leisure time; these can be places like:
- Meditation Corners
You can get more creative than the above-highlighted options, but just make sure that it provides a peaceful environment for your workers to unwind and recharge.
Types of Agile Work Environments
An Agile work environment can come in many shapes and sizes. This largely depends on how much space the company has and what the needs of its employees are.
Below we discuss some common types of Agile workspaces that should be part of your next Agile office design.
Quiet zones are private spots allocated for workers to concentrate on their work and separate themselves from any distractions in the office. It is designed to improve concentration and unplug office noise to help workers get some peace of mind.
A quiet zone usually includes a small office space with a simple layout. Some organizations may go a step further and provide noise-canceling headphones or sound-isolating phone booths to ensure employees aren’t disturbed by any outside commotion.
Office hoteling refers to reserving a deskspace or office room for some time. In this type of Agile work environment, employees are given flexibility over the location they want to work in and can book a certain location they want to be allocated within the Agile workplace.
It’s given the name “office hoteling” as it works similarly to a hotel – where you can book a room (in this case, a desk/office) that you like.
Hot-desking is similar to office hoteling because it offers the same kind of flexibility for working. In hot-desking, a person can choose which desk they want to work on rather than being assigned a specific permanent workstation.
This breaks the monotonous cycle of showing up to the same desk every day and gives employees the freedom to work where they want, according to their mood, to help boost their productivity.
Breakout spaces are informal areas in the Agile workplace where workers can enjoy leisure activities like playing games or grabbing a snack. Although this can be a place for brainstorming sessions and team meetings, it should serve primarily as a place for relaxation away from work.
A breakout space helps teams relax with colleagues and disconnect from their screens for a while. Taking breaks has been linked with an improvement in both mental and physical health and is key to keeping your workforce motivated.
A resource area includes different types of work equipment and supplies for teams to use for their work. These include things like printers, fax machines, scanners, and more that teams need to facilitate their work.
These resource areas are usually noisy due to the constant use of equipment. For this reason, they should be located away from work areas in the Agile office to prevent distractions.
Benefits of an Agile Work Environment
Agile teams are expected to meet daily and regularly discuss tactics, strategies, and goals. An Agile working environment supports this idea by providing a meeting room where teams can come together and effectively communicate with each other.
Efficiently Allocates Deskspace
Businesses waste around $2mil+ annually on empty desks by failing to allocate desk space efficiently. By creating an Agile work environment, organizations save costs with better space utilization as all office spaces are effectively used and transformed into a flexible workspace for employees.
Improves Employee Satisfaction
An Agile workspace includes many flexible working options and unwind zones to support a person’s style of working. By having the option to work on their own terms, employees will feel more valued in a company which increases motivation and, ultimately, job satisfaction.
Thanks to the various spaces provided to employees in an Agile work environment, employees can choose to sit in open-plan offices or their private workspaces. These options boost employees’ productivity as they can distance themselves from distractions when they want to do concentrated work and sit together with colleagues for brainstorming sessions.
Challenges of an Agile Work Environment
There are many benefits that an Agile work environment provides, but since it’s a huge shift from the status quo, it inevitably brings about some challenges for teams to implement.
Conflicts in Collaboration
With employees given complete freedom to move around and complete tasks in their way, some conflicts will arise as teams may become more difficult to manage. Obstacles in team management can decrease the quality of collaboration as team members might seem detached from others and work on their specific objectives rather than viewing the bigger picture as a team.
An effective workaround through this is to use a project management tool to ensure teams are regularly communicating with each other. By using comments and messages, team members can keep each other informed of the tasks they’re taking on and their progress.
In an Agile working environment, cross-functional collaboration is encouraged through open offices, but this can blur the line between senior management and workers. When teams are working in parallel together, it can cause some confusion and disturb the organizational hierarchy.
Using your project management tool, you can assign roles to each team member and track the tasks they’re taking on. This can help keep a check on who’s responsible for what and maintain accountability in the organization.
Difficult to Track Productivity
As employees are constantly moving their desks around with hot-desking, it can be difficult to tell if they are actually working. In a traditional office space, it’s easier to tell. If a worker is absent, that means they aren’t working. But in an Agile workspace, workers are shifting their desk space, taking short breaks, and working privately or openly.
Most types of project management software include reporting tools to track productivity and view team performance. These can be used to keep an eye on how team members are progressing and review their performance.
Conclusion – Building an Agile Work Environment to Help Teams Thrive
An Agile work environment differs from a traditional office by providing a flexible workspace for teams to work in their own style. This Agile way of working has the benefits of increased employee satisfaction, greater productivity, and improved team collaboration.
People are evolving, and so is the workplace. With Agile work environments on the rise, it’s no secret that businesses are starting to see the immense benefits this approach offers.
It’s best to involve your team in building an Agile environment through incremental steps. Using a project management tool while maintaining effective communication can be the key to successfully transitioning to an Agile work environment.