Why we need an agile makeover of workplaces


Open-plan offices complement infrastructure in creating a truly empowering work environment for employees.

Flexibility and adaptability are the two virtues that decide the fate of not just individuals, but also companies. Organisations are struggling to keep pace with the changing landscape of information technology. Know-how and adoption of advanced technologies and gadgets make sure that businesses don’t lag behind competitors. At the same time, it is equally important to keep employees happy and productive at the workplace, while providing them the right infrastructure.

Agile workplace or an open-plan office, compliments infrastructure in creating a work environment that makes employees feel truly empowered. It helps break away from the conventional command-and-control style of management, thereby ensuring a favourable environment — eliminating redundant processes and changing floor plans to ease communication and collaboration.

In the IT sector, this approach can particularly benefit software product companies, who are increasingly embracing newer project management styles, such as agile methodology to reduce the time to market.

Obsolete rules might hold you back
Do you have the latest technology for your business opportunities? Are you still stuck with old desktops and restrictive servers? What organisations need is an enabling infrastructure, which resonates with the changing preferences of the contemporary workforce. It is important to build systems that allow employees to perform without any disruption and security concerns.

Work culture is the key driving force behind any company’s success and it is the employees, who knit this fabric of culture. To change your organisation’s work culture for good, you need to understand and appreciate the aspirations of the employees—especially the millennials—who come with a different mindset. The Economic Survey of India 2013–14 predicts that India will become the youngest country by 2021, with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group of 20–35. This makes it pertinent for companies to re-align their strategies to attract and retain this young population at the workplace.

Thus, it is imperative for organisations to observe the behavioural patterns of their employees to identify the motivational force that drives them. Often, millennials do not prefer antique tools or obsolete processes at work. They believe in swift execution¬¬¬¬¬—from acquisition and interpretation to sharing of information. If you are not able to make your workplace relevant to them, then you may lose out on the right talent.

Agile workplace for new workforce
Agile working reassures a much more collaborative way of doing business with the right infrastructure. It allows people to work with ease — their activities and movements no longer restricted to any particular cubicle in one corner of an office floor. Gensler’s Workplace Survey in Asia mentions that people who choose their own settings for work were 1.5 times more likely to work in a balanced environment and also secure higher scores across performance indicators, in terms of productivity, finesse and precision.

As an enabling force, for example, an agile workspace reduces the need to block a discussion room for a meeting as teams can directly interact. White boards around the floor provide an excellent base to all impromptu discussions. In an agile team, every member is considered equally important in the decision-making process irrespective of where one is placed in the hierarchy. It becomes important for managers and human resource (HR) professionals to educate employees on how collaboration and transparency can be leveraged to help them achieve their goals in this new way of working.

By making the workspace agile, companies don’t aim to create an environment biased towards work but bring in a creative approach to work. In this type of setup, employees do not have any assigned desk and are able to choose their seats each day based on the kind of work they need to do or the co-worker with whom they need to work. This, in return, allows them to interact with different sets of people every day, which doesn’t happen in a cubicle setup.

The purpose of such an interactive workplace is to also facilitate recreational activities in break-out areas. Employees’ privacy is equally valued, and should be addressed. For instance, having strategically placed telephone booths to let individuals have some personal space for conversation is one way of ensuring that. This entire process encourages an interactive environment, reduces friction between teams and lends a much-needed boost to productivity.

Future roadmap
There is no point investing in new technology and resources if your employees do not perceive value in it. Several factors need to be taken care of while building an agile workplace, starting with fostering the right mindset.

• Give space to employees: Empower your employees and give them enough space to think of better solutions. It is difficult to think of an agile workplace, if employees are waiting for their superiors to guide them. Establish a sense of trust amongst the employees.

• Always have a plan B: It is often not the best solution to ask your employees to quit when they underperform. Making them move out of their comfort zone and giving them the opportunity to learn and champion new skills can help instill confidence and motivate them to do better. Rotation of an individual’s tasks or teams can also ensure employee vitality.

• Drive collaboration and innovation: Always inspire people to work in teams. Given the complexities of work that we deal with every day, it is crucial for us to bring innovative products for our clients. This will only happen if we encourage our employees to think and come up with ground-breaking ideas beyond their regular scope of work.

An agile workplace should constantly reinforce the message to the employees that they are valued and appreciated. Lastly, it’s the leadership team’s responsibility to inspire and cultivate an environment that helps make agile working the DNA of a company’s culture.

(The author is head of finance and administration, IDeaS Revenue Solutions.)



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