Agile working? A necessity in changing times

As the number of cases of coronavirus in the UK continues to rise, and the government is being called to make significant change to address the climate emergency, organisations with an ingrained agile working culture will be the only ones to thrive.

With advancements in technology it is easier than ever to not only work from home, but any space that is comfortable, meaning that the definition of agile working covers all types of work outside of the standard office pattern. Promoting truly agile working means: to understand that work is an activity and not a place; to empower employees to work when, where and how they choose; to optimise their performance and maximise value. Organisational culture must go hand in hand with the technology to ensure it is a success.

70% of UK employees say agile working makes a job more attractive, with 30% of them preferring it to a pay rise. Furthermore, in an ageing population it is an opportunity to retain the skills of a mature, experienced workforce for far longer. With the chance to work flexibly more employees are likely to extend their career that little bit further, passing on valuable knowledge to developing talent. It also enables significant savings on office space if executed systematically. Therefore, an agile working policy is essential for recruitment, retention, and resilience in an increasingly uncertain world.

Despite the significant advantages, many employers still express a reluctance to embrace flexible working practices, fearing complexity from adopting agile practices and lack of visibility to productivity. However, in the coming weeks coronavirus may mean most offices are closed for some time, so organisations should reap the benefits of adopting a more flexible and creative environment and look to put the wheels in motion for increased agility where possible.

Allowing employees to work from home is the best way to prevent contamination given that human-to-human transmission is possible. By implementing flexible working arrangements, you are not just eliminating the possibility of transmission at the office, but also during the commute. This is especially true for densely populated cities such as London where you are inches away from others’ faces on the tube during rush hour. With the infrastructure that we have today, it is much easier to be “business-as-usual” for many organisations, with the use of mobile phones, chat platforms, project management dashboards and company documents stored in the cloud.

The climate emergency is also an issue that we need to address. It is not a question of if, but when. Depending on the scale of reduction required, it could be that globally businesses will be forced to make significant change to cut their carbon emissions; agile working to reduce commuting and travel may be the only way.

So how do you do it? There are some infrastructure and technology requirements which should be simple to implement, and then it must be embedded company-wide in the culture. Employers must trust employees to be productive, the trust should not need to be earned. The senior leadership must be behind it, and the middle management must enable it, but companies that achieve true agility will remain competitive in a rapidly evolving world.