The reality of work has changed drastically over the last year, as the pandemic thrusted companies in Canada and around the globe into a massive social experiment on the efficacy of remote work. 

Prior to the pandemic, 82% of Canadian employees worked primarily outside of the home. However, this dropped sharply, with 59% now working remotely, according to a study from July 2020. This new work trend is expected to persist post-pandemic, as the ability to offer greater flexibility that comes with working from home is critical to an organization’s ability to attract talent. 

Flexible work arrangements further ingraining themselves into the world of work has added fuel to a brewing revolution in workspace design: agile workspaces. These are workspaces that are designed to take advantage of flexibility by using a variety of design elements and technologies to both increase productivity and optimize use of space. With fewer people occupying in-office seats, business leaders are increasingly looking for ways to consolidate and adapt their workplace. 

The evolution of the office: Rethinking how we work 

According to a McKinsey study, 80% of people who can work from home enjoy it, and 69% are as productive or more productive than they were tethered to an office. Employees enjoy greater work-life balance and control over their schedule, leading to greater job satisfaction and likely lower turnover as a result.

This has led to a broad rethinking of how we work. Companies have long sought to boost productivity and creativity by redesigning the workplace, adapting from traditional offices comprising closed-concept spaces and cubicles to the creation of open-concept offices intended to promote contact and collaboration. 

As remote work becomes increasingly normalized, offices will have to adapt to support that shift in organizational priorities. Business leaders told McKinsey recently that they expect usage of main and satellite offices to decline by 12% and 9%, respectively, while flex office space needs will stay the same and work from home will increase by 7%.

The monetary benefits of creating an agile workspace

Business leaders are facing greater pressures to reduce costs while also improving efficiencies across teams and enhancing the employee experience. That said, the concept of agile workspaces has grown in popularity as studies have shown that they can positively impact staff retention, collaboration, creativity, productivity and general wellbeing. Additionally, it also has an impact on a company’s bottom line. 

Optimizing the use of office space can help companies manage rising lease rates, utilities and maintenance costs, while also reducing their environmental impact. Dell, which has about 25% of its employees work from home either full-time or a few days a week, has been able to save roughly USD $12 million a year in real estate costs by consolidating and creating more flexible workspace options, according to a CNN report.

So how can business leaders create a space that helps foster flexibility – and productivity? It takes a particular approach to office design, backed by technology.

How to design an agile workspace

Agile workplaces often include five or six particular elements. It’s imperative to keep these in mind when creating agile workspaces: 

  1. Open-plan office space: While open plan offices have many well-documented drawbacks, they are the bedrock on which to build a flexible workspace. Despite the drawbacks, they make up 70% of all offices. They allow for easy reconfiguration to meet changing needs.
  2. Quiet spaces: Many of the problems with open-plan offices stem from the lack of quiet space where employees can avoid distraction, put their nose to the grindstone, and get work done. Agile workspaces compensate by creating quiet, sometimes even soundproofed, stalls for focused work.
  3. Breakout spaces: These areas provide a casual, comfortable, collaborative space to interact outside of stuffy conference rooms and away from people who need to avoid distraction.
  4. Flexible furniture: Agile workspaces require light furniture and equipment that can be rearranged on the fly as team sizes and needs shift and change.
  5. Resource stations: Office resources that can’t be moved easily should be grouped together so that the whole office can access them easily. This includes everything from water dispensers and coffee machines to copiers and fax machines.
  6. Touchdown areas: Informal, short-term workspace for remote, contract, or less frequent workers on the team.
  7. Technology that supports design changes. Agile workplaces require ubiquitous wifi connectivity, and fixed data cabling and power outlets must be deployed strategically throughout the space. Digital scheduling tools can even make it easier for employees to find and book the desks and spaces they need, and communication and collaboration software can help them connect to teammates regardless of location. 

The world of work is changing as the tools for remote collaboration get better and offices get smarter. A little flexibility and creativity with how (and when) the office is used can improve employee productivity while cutting costs, creating a win-win for companies. Is yours ready to make the shift?