I’ve been extremely lucky in my career. When I told my colleagues at WorkflowMax I needed to move to the other side of the world, they didn’t recoil in horror. Instead they were understanding and supportive - and even designed a freelance role so I could remain part of the team.
Now I write articles for WorkflowMax from my little home in North London, while my office is a 23 hour flight away in Auckland, New Zealand. You don’t get much more remote than that!
This change has only been possible because my team truly embraced the concept of agile working. They recognised that as a copywriter, my work doesn’t need to be constrained by location - as long as I’m given clear briefs and timeframes.
Being granted the opportunity to work remotely has opened my eyes to the amazing possibilities of agile working. Because my work time is ‘my own’ I strive harder than ever to be efficient - and I can honestly say I’ve never been more productive.
My commitment to my teammates remains strong, and I still feel connected to them even though they’re 11,000 miles away.
What is agile working?
In my case, agile working was the opportunity to work remotely - and this is often how people perceive it. But there’s more to agile methodology than flexible hours and geography.
Here’s the my favourite definition of agile working:
“Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).”
Paul Allsopp, The Agile Organisation
The agile methodology is about breaking down conventional rules and processes - paving the way for a smarter, more efficient approach to workplace productivity.
An agile workplace empowers your team to take ownership of projects, manage their own time, and work according to their strengths. Team members are judged by their performance and the quality of their work, instead of time spent sitting at the desk.
As a marketing team for an innovative tech company, agile methodology seemed like a natural choice for WorkflowMax. But it can work in your industry too. All you need is open-minded, progressive leadership and the willingness to adapt.Who can use agile working?
We live in an incredible age of technology and global connectivity. Almost any business or industry can adopt an agile approach to work and reap the benefits. Copywriters, designers, architects, engineers, programmers, contractors…These are just a few of the professions capable of flexible working.
Sophisticated time tracking technology is available for staff to enter digital timesheets on their smartphones, instead of logging hours in the office. This gives managers full transparency of the time spent on a project, without chaining workers to a desk or fixed location.
There are also hundreds of online productivity apps designed for agile working. These communication, brainstorming and workflow tools make it easy for agile teams to work on projects simultaneously - even if your team is entirely remote.
Still not convinced? Agile working has numerous benefits for both employees and employers. Here are 10 amazing ways agile working can increase productivity (and happiness) at your workplace.
1 - You’ll attract the best talent
An agile workplace is an excellent drawcard for attracting new talent… And soon it could become a necessity. Recent surveys have shown that millennials value flexible working more than any other workplace perk. They don’t just prefer the agile approach - they expect it.
Since millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, businesses who are slow to adapt may get left behind.
An agile workplace also improves retention rates. Employees can travel and accommodate their changing personal circumstances without losing their jobs. This means skill sets are retained long-term and built on for years, transforming your team into productivity masters.
2 - You’ll enjoy greater diversity
Agile workplaces recognise that people have personal lives and unique needs. Because your employees aren’t constrained by the 9-5 lifestyle, it’s easier to build a diverse team.
Unlike other businesses, you’ll be free to employ talented workers who need flexibility; including part-time university students, parents or job-sharers. By hiring people with different backgrounds and life experiences, you’ll increase productivity, innovation and diversity of thought.
3 - Everyone’s strengths are utilised
Agile workplaces don’t put people in a box. Your employees aren’t expected to fit a rigid, fixed job description. Instead, team members collaborate on projects in a fluid and dynamic way.
By allowing each team member to build a wide repertoire of skills, you gain numerous other benefits - including higher morale and workplace productivity. Employees have the freedom to pursue tasks that interest them, and develop skill sets aligned with their desired career path.
4 - Save money on offices & commuting
Agile workplaces save money. You don’t have to pay rent, electricity and water bills to cater for a horde of 9-5 desk workers. Instead, staff can share ‘hot desks’ and work in communal areas, or even collaborate in local parks and cafes.
These open plan designs tend to be much cheaper than traditional ‘cubicle’ offices, which require fixed workspaces for every individual. And if your workforce is completely remote, you might not need an office at all!
Flexible hours also help employees to save significant money on commuting. If you cover this expense for staff, the saving is passed on to your business.
The money you save can be used in numerous ways to increase productivity. Send employees on skill development courses and training modules, upgrade their laptops or host a team-building social event.
5 - Everyone works more efficiently
Gone are the days of staring blankly at a screen pretending to work. Agile working means your team are judged by their actual performance and results, instead of the time they spend in the office.
This means it’s in your team’s best interests to become more efficient. If you can work smarter and finish the day at 3pm, why wouldn’t you? Agile working helps to incentivise better work habits, encouraging your whole team to become more productive and resourceful.
Better yet, you’re never paying employees to sit there watching the clock.
6 - Encourage collaboration
Agile workplaces are brilliant for inspiring collaboration. Because of the open plan workspace design, there is a great emphasis on meeting hubs and communal spaces.
At Xero we have couches, break away areas, a ping pong table and stacks of bean bags. These little hubs encourage teamwork and creativity. There’s also a pub downstairs where many of our Friday meetings have taken place!
Having attractive spaces for group work really incentivises collaboration. Your team aren’t zoned out with their headphones on - they’re working together to achieve results in a high energy, interactive environment. This can dramatically increase productivity, especially when working on large projects.
7 - Work with natural rhythms
Some of us are night owls, some of us are early birds. Different people have different rhythms.
Agile is great for workplace productivity because it allows employees to match work patterns to their own energy levels. If you work best in the morning, you can hit the office at 7am (or log in to your workflow app from your bedroom).
Likewise, if mornings are your arch-nemesis you can hit the ground running in the afternoon. Agile lets your team work at their peak productivity times; instead of forcing them to struggle through when their energy is low. Everyone gets to march to the beat of their own drum, and this naturally helps to boost workplace productivity.
8 - Agile flattens hierarchies
Agile isn’t just about remote and flexible working - it’s also about flattening the organisational structure of your business, helping you stay competitive.
By empowering staff to manage their own hours, projects and schedules you remove the need for traditional tiers of management. Teams and individuals work together to achieve company objectives, instead of being micromanaged.
Removing hierarchies and creating a flat organisation has several benefits. It saves on money and costs associated with traditional top-down management. It also improves morale, innovation and problem-solving, as everyone’s ideas can be heard.
9 - No more ‘presenteeism’
Presenteeism is the practice of turning up to work just to ‘be seen’ by your boss. It’s when you sit at your desk from 9-5 for the sake of it, even if you’re completely zoned out after 3pm.
Agile working lets you admit when you’re suffering from the deadly afternoon slump. If you find it hard to achieve anything after 3pm, you don’t have to sit at your desk. Get outside, find a new environment, renew your sense of purpose. The rules are made to be broken.
10 - Better employee health
Agile environments are extremely supportive of employee health and wellbeing. Because your team aren’t tied to a 40 hour working week, they can take time off for doctor’s appointments, mental health breaks, or just a general rest when needed.
This means when they’re at work, they’re in great health and working at peak productivity. It also has a huge positive impact on staff morale.
11 - A happier workforce
Perhaps the greatest benefit of agile working is that it creates a happier workforce. As individuals, you have more freedom to do the type of work you enjoy. You’re empowered to take charge of projects and work your own hours. You have a better work life balance, as you’re not sacrificing personal time to fit rigid office hours.
It hardly needs explaining that this creates a happier workforce. Your team are more likely to love their jobs, and all the agile perks that go along with it. And when they love their job, they’ll work harder to produce great results.
Has your company experimented with agile working? Has it resulted in any unforeseen benefits or challenges? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below.