It Pays to Be Agile: 3 Steps to Increasing Workspace Flexibility

As you get older, your body tends to become less agile. Balance can be more difficult to maintain. Keeping up with your usual activities may become a struggle.

But this decline is not inevitable. To combat these physical and mental losses, many turn to an exercise program. Yoga, perhaps. Or Pilates.

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Stretch a little—then a little further.

Regain your focus.

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This same type of aging process can also take place within an office building. Your company’s workspace—if it has remained static—has likely also become less agile with time. The traditional office layout that worked so well back before technology made dedicated desk space unnecessary may now feel inflexible and inefficient.

It doesn’t need to. Consider this blog a Pilates session for your workspace, a tool to increase its agility and performance potential in three simple steps.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Current Workspace

To maintain productivity, companies need to actively modify their office layout over time. An agile workspace offers a variety of settings that employees can cycle through—much the way a Pilates practitioner moves through exercise poses. These settings typically include some form of each the following five areas, customized to fit the needs of the particular workspace:

  • An open floor plan. Having an open floor plan—with modular, easy-to-reconfigure furniture—encourages face-to-face collaboration and communication and fosters a sense of community. In addition, this type of floor plan—especially when used in conjunction with the kinds of breakout areas described below—can increase the chances for “accidental collisions” between staff from different departments—which can encourage innovation.
  • Breakout areas. Separated from the open work space (although not necessarily by walls—screens or other partitions can also be effective), breakout areas can be meeting rooms, booths, or living room-style areas that facilitate small group work and/or employee relaxation. Outdoor areas can make excellent breakout areas.
  • Quiet zones. Small, usually soundproofed areas, quiet zones are designed to provide privacy for phone calls and other “heads down” tasks requiring extensive concentration. Telephone booth-style privacy pods can be easy to install and move, making them popular additions to many agile workspaces.
  • Touchdown spaces. These types of unassigned work stations can serve as temporary offices for employees who generally work from home or spend a lot of time meeting with clients elsewhere. They maximize spatial efficiency and decrease costs.
  • Resource Stations. These areas house office supplies, printers, and other necessary resources.

If your existing office layout incorporates an open floor plan, increasing agility may require adding more private spaces. If your current office space is divided up into cubicles, however, you may instead need to enlarge the common area to allow for greater collaboration and teamwork. Take a close look at your existing space to see how it can be refigured to allow for the types of settings associated with workplace agility.

Step 2: Talk to Your Employees

Letting your employees know in advance of your hope to make the office space more agile will give them the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. Change—even positive change—can be difficult, and soliciting input is the best way to end up with a workspace that everyone looks forward to coming to each day. Involving your staff early will give them a chance to mentally prepare for the change and to feel like the renovation is something that they are a part of, rather than something to which they are being subjected.

Your employees are the people who use the workspace the most—and as such, they are likely to come up with some of the best ideas for making it perform best. How and where do they wish to go about getting their work done? Do they anticipate a need for several smaller meeting rooms or would one suffice? How often would a privacy booth for confidential telephone conversations and extended focus sessions be used? Should the resource stations be set up close by for ease of access or out of the way so as not to be a distraction? How can the space be made comfortable and efficient? These are all issues that your staff can advise on.

Step 3: Recognize that You Don’t Need to Get It Exactly Right

One of the great joys of an agile workspace is that very little is irreparable. When last month’s highly-efficient floor plan no longer seems to be meeting employee needs, the modular, easy-to-move office furniture and partitions typically used in an agile office can quickly be reconfigured. No one has unlimited space. But by having the flexibility to repurpose existing spaces—using the kitchen area as a large meeting room, for example—companies can make it feel as if they have far more space than they do.

Without movement and flexibility, it can be difficult to remain productive with age. Stasis can can impact an office space just as much as it can those working within it. But with the proper tools, and an eye toward actively modifying those elements of an office layout that are no longer functioning effectively, the space can regain its agility and efficiency.

If only it were as easy for the rest of us.

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Written By: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace

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