What Is Agile Working?

Published on by Tom Ball - CEO of NearDesk.

The Agile Work movement has its roots in the tech industry, specifically software development. These days it is however used much more broadly, to describe new ways of working well beyond the original scope – and it is gaining pace.

We are uncovering better ways of working in new ways and in new places by doing it and helping others do it.

Tom Ball, Neardesk
Image courtesy of NearDesk

With apologies to the authors of the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development we bring you the office equivalent:

“We are uncovering better ways of working in new ways and in new places by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over offices and cubicles. Flexible spaces over comprehensively planned. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Responding to change over following a plan”

But what can I use Agile for and where can I learn more?

When: empower your people

Flexible working should be flexible – and bring value to both the employer and the employed. The traditional 9-5 day was a welcome invention in the 1800s (when workers often put in 10-16 hours a day). A lot has happened since then! Many organisations are seeing productivity benefits from a more flexible approach to when work is carried out, and it is being championed by industry bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – and according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, greater flexible working could add £11.5 billion annually to the UK economy.

Where: use your space better

Chris Kane, Chief Executive of BBC Commercial Projects observes that

“Work is changing, from being binary – being tethered to one particular desk – to working anywhere at any time…”

Is your office ready for this? English Heritage consolidated two floors into one while serving the same number of staff.  They project that the transformation will deliver a saving of £1 million within 5 years and has produced a return on investment in less than 12 months. Start-up Digital Craftsmen cut office space and hired two more people with their savings, making them more profitable in just six months.

It’s not all just financials: O2 reported a saving of 50% on carbon emissions by adopting mobile working practices.

How: collaborate better with your colleagues and customers

According to HBR ‘Chance encounters and interactions between knowledge workers improve performance and they have the data to prove it and further reporting predicts the death of the corporate campus – as it creates silos and isolates people from who they serve: colleagues and customers. It is then no surprise that many start-ups choose co-working spaces for locating their staff, and we’re increasingly seeing corporates adopt a similar approach, co-locating staff with their clients in shared spaces.

Why: be more responsive

Because the world is changing faster than ever. Sir Winfried Bischoff, the former Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, says on behalf of Agile Future Forum members B&Q, Bupa, BT, HM Treasury and IBM (to mention a few):

“We all share a common view […] that workforce agility is generating significant and tangible economic benefits for our businesses. We set out to investigate the benefits we already enjoyed from our workforce agility practices, to identify additional potential value, and to understand how we could help other businesses across the economy replicate good practices.”

You can do that too. Take the Agility Test.