- Industry News
Should You Offer Agile Working?
Agile working - it’s the buzzword of the moment, offering the promise of less stressed, more productive employees working from where they want, when they want, in collaborative teams using the latest technology. Agile working pledges to put the emphasis on what you do, not where you do it, looking at work as an activity rather than a place. 70% of companies are expected to offer agile working by 2020 and 79% of employees want the option of agile working at their current company. We recently explored Generation Z in a blog post and agile working was high on their priority list.
But is agile working all it promises to be? While in theory agile working sounds fantastic we’ve spoken to a selection of our clients and candidates who have experienced agile working and asked them for their honest opinion about whether it really works. Revealing if the hype around agile working is really all it’s cracked up to be and what you need to do to ensure it works in your organisation.
In theory, agile working should reduce costs. Hot desking, working from home and live-streaming meetings can mean there are simply not as many people in the office, vastly reducing overheads. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that for this to work, as an employer you must invest in the latest technology and have an IT system that can accommodate people working from anywhere in the world.
Wifi speeds are also a factor to consider; when working from home or remotely will your employee’s wifi be strong enough to accommodate seamless video conferencing and live streaming? It may be that you need to offer data packages to your employees or provide them with an allowance for increased internet speed. All of which can incur considerable costs in the short term.
Increasing work/life balance
By not always having to return to their office desk to work productively agile working can add hours to an employee’s day. By not wasting time, energy and stress commuting employees reported that they were more focussed when they did work and had more free time to enjoy their evenings and mornings.
However, lots of the candidates we spoke to also mentioned they found the line between work and their free time becoming blurred. By being able to work from anywhere there was nothing to stop them from answering emails in the evening or accepting more meetings then they could handle in one day. Increasing their stress and making them feel as though they could never fully ‘switch off’.
Encourage more collaborative working
Agile working promises to allow the creation of teams of employees working anywhere in the world. Meaning the best skill sets can be matched regardless of location. Additionally, agile working can encourage teams and individuals to work more closely together, allowing them to check in wherever they are and work together anywhere they like, either inside or outside of the office.
But there are downsides to this, some candidates stated that not working in a consistent team can feel isolating, and some worried that they might be passed over for promotion simply because they weren’t visible enough. This can be especially hard for support staff; with their managers and team working from ad hoc locations they may need additional training and resources to ensure that they can continue to deliver the level of support that is required.
Give employees the freedom to develop their own styles of working
As Dolly Parton famously stated, ‘working 9-5…it’s all taking and no giving’. Well, with agile working that’s no longer the case as employees are given the chance to work any way they want, developing a style of working that they find most productive. As well as being liberating for the employee lots of employers have noted that they’ve learnt a lot from the way their employees choose to work, with some ultimately saying they may be able to leverage their new processes and might ultimately improve the way the business operates.
This can be great for PAs as they’re given the chance to manage diaries, travel and day-to-day organisation in any way they want. However, it requires managers to be fully on board with the idea of agile working and entirely trust their PAs and employees to get the job done even if it’s in an unorthodox way.
Key differentiator when attracting talent
When placing talent, a culture fit is just as important as a skill set one. Anderson Hoare are a London-based boutique recruitment agency been working in the industry for over two decades and know that there is no point in placing a candidate in a role just because they fit on paper. We take time to really get to know all our clients and candidates, so we can match them intuitively.
We always describe the working style and office environment to our candidates and out of all the attributes they ask us about, agile working is one of the most popular - with recruitment site, Secs in The City, agreeing, stating that agile working is their most asked about job attribute.
In conclusion, agile working is here to stay and only growing in popularity. Anyone that tries to bury their head in the sand and ignore the fact that the workplace is changing is likely to find themselves left behind and with dissatisfied employees. However, it is not something to be taken on lightly, it must be managed properly from the top, with time and money invested in setting up proper procedures and systems.
Culturally, it’s important to ensure that everyone is on board and understands what agile working is and what’s expected of them, including managers who need to ensure they trust their employees to work successfully in their own style. When implemented effectively the feedback from our candidates has been that agile working can feel extremely liberating and motivating for PAs and support staff. Elevating them from feeling like a cog in a machine to a valued, trusted member of staff with autonomy and responsibility over their own workload. Many reported wanting to work harder and caring more about what they did as less monitoring meant they took more pride in the work they produced.