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Agile working, what is it?


Agile working, flexible working, the new way of working and flexible working hours, are some terms used for the same subject.

We opt for AGILE WORKING : a new way of working with flexibility in timeplace and duration of work.

Time: the time at which work is done. Place: the work location. Duration: the number of working hours. 

(image by STUDIOVHF)

Agile working and the new way of working 

Is agile working the same as the new way of working? In principle, yes. Both of these two terms are usually used for time and location-independent work. In the UK office interiors industry the term that is most used is Agile Working, but the new way of working is used as well in more internationally oriented organisations. However, we also share the view that agile working can conceive a larger, more comprehensive understanding. Agile working is about time, location and duration of work. The new way of working involves in this view also other changes with employer – employee relations. The new generations of employees demand oher things from their employers. Conversely organisations also demand other behaviour from their employees. In fact, the psychological contract between employer and employee is changing.

Characteristics of an Agile working culture

An organisation is considered as a true agile organisation when:

  1. A vision has been developed about successful flexible working that has the support of the main stake-holders (in particular the Executive Board).

  2. The ways of agile working are defined beyond just working schedules and working hours.

  3. Flexibility is seen and implemented as an organisational strategy and way of activity based working rather than an individual favour for the employee.

  4. Flexible is actively supported by senior management with words and deeds!

  5. There is a clear policy and there are guidelines on agile working and this is accessible for everyone in your organisation . The policy/guidelines includes a fair business-based application process.

  6. All management levels are trained in the field of flexible work, both in attitude (mindset) and behavior (e.g. managerial style, performance management, trust, etc.)

  7. HR policies and HR systems are adapted to agile working.

  8. There is a good cooperation between the key features that facilitate agile working: HR, IT, and smart office interiors.

Agile working in the day to day practice

Employees vary start and end times within time frames agreed by the management. An example: block times between 10.00 and 19.00 to 7.00 15.00 hour within the dayly window of hours. With flexible start and end times there is a choice between a fixed schedule (traditional flextime, e.g. employee works from 7.30 – 16.00 hours) or a flexible scheme that may vary the employee per day. 

Employees working from home or another location. This form needs technical support (mobile phone, laptop, access to documents, etc). It also asks a different management style on team work and communication/access. Working from home requires an arrangement of agreements between employer and employee. Working from home must still comply with laws and regulations. In the telework agreement it can be included if teleworking is voluntary or mandatory, when costs shall be reimbursed, what standards the tele workplace should meet. Many companies operate a maximum of two days per week working from home.

Employees work their number of contract hours in fewer days. A 36-hour week, for example, in 4 days, 8 hours, or in 9 days of 9 hours (9 hours a day, one day off every two weeks). In practice the picture around compressed working  weeks will differ hugely between employees. There are various organisations where working 4 x 9 is possible and where research has shown that there are positive effects on organisational goals like productivity. Many organisations, however, shudder to apply this form and revers it regularly. If a 4 x 9 metthod is inroduced it will usually be done in combination with other forms of flexible working. Agile working can mean a tremendous saving on real estate costs when there are no allocated workstations. Nowadays there are very effective desk booking apps available that enable organisations to have more than twice the number of employees than desks.

Agile working is not done in a standard form. It comes down to a customised agreement between the supervisor and the employee. The agreement should fit the objectives of boh the department as well as the wishes of the employee. So he advise is to be as innovative and targeted as possible to determin the right form of agile working.