By now most people in the world of business have at least heard of the word ‘Agile’. Used in reference to project management and corporate projects, there’s no doubt that Agile methodology provides serious advantages over traditional ‘waterfall’ style project management. In fact, it’s impacting more than just the smaller tech start-ups.
The Rise of Agile
Agile is undoubtedly one of the most popular office trends of the 2010s. Companies have begun to implement some form of Agile into their business model; or at least sought inspiration from some of its best practices to achieve success.
But what makes it so popular? Naturally, a part of wanting to be Agile is driven by people wanting to stay in the loop, so that they can keep their jobs, or at least stay adequate. Another part of the popularity is an attempt to incorporate the latest buzz words and practices into the office (remember “synergy”?).
If done right, implementing trends like Agile can often be beneficial to both of these goals. But also, switching to Agile is sometimes driven by the desire to improve the office environment and culture, in order to make it a more comfortable and productive place.
The Return of Open-Concept
Office environments have changed drastically throughout the years. For example, open-concept office workstations have once again made a comeback with the rise of Agile methodology. As collaborative work becomes more normal, the office space needs to be optimized to allow groups to get together and collaborate. The intent is to maximize creativity and productivity without being overly distracting to others.
Modular office furniture allows teams to reorganize space on a per-project basis. As private offices become a thing of the past, today’s teams can quickly and easily adjust their workstations to suit their working style and a project’s needs. Some furniture, like an adjustable height workstation, can be customized. If one layout doesn’t work for you or your team, trying out another one to get yourselves comfortable takes zero time and effort.
If workplace environments keep changing at the individual and small-team level, the same can certainly also be said about larger assembly-spaces. We’re not so futuristic that basic office requirements are thrown out the door. Employees still need to see and hear clearly, and they still need to be comfortable. That said, some of the ways of achieving these things have shifted over the past few years.
- Curved Rows of Seating – We’ve all been to concerts at ground-level where you end up stuck behind the squad of giants so tall you can barely enjoy the show. It’s annoying at a concert, but it’s just as bad at work. By putting into practice the formation of sitting around a presenter in a semi-circle, shorter folks now don’t have to worry about tip-toeing or craning their neck. Curved rows of seating is a must for any large assembly.
- Tiered-Seating – If you can implement curved rows with tiered-seating, you’re fast on your way to showing up in your employees’ good graces. It’s an expensive option, and may be difficult to implement, but that said, if it’s feasible for your office or renovating is on the table anyways, this is a great way to improve people’s visibility and comfort needs.
- Raised Speaker Platform – An alternative to the more costly tiered-seating option is having a raised platform for your speakers to stand on. It takes less effort and money to implement, and still offers better visibility to your employees than having everybody at ground-level.
- Good Acoustics – We’ve all been to large meetings where the speaker just doesn’t have a powerful voice to project through the entire room. This is why installing a good sound system for larger meeting spaces, or having proper acoustics goes a very long way in improving the quality of an assembly. People need to hear what’s being said, or else they will quickly stop paying attention. On the other hand, if the sound is too loud, the audience will be too busy cringing with their fingers in their ears. The right sound system should strike a balance so the only thing on the listeners’ minds is the speaker.
- Attractive Visuals – Beyond having a proper or perhaps needless projector, visuals can include a flipchart, easel or a dry erase board. Good tables can be important if you want the audience to take notes and feel comfortable, and while it might seem childish, markers can go a long way in helping to highlight or underline keywords and other important notes. Anything to draw the eye and keep people at attention will earn you brownie points.
Whether we’re talking about assembly spaces or working spaces, the key requirements must always be the same: comfort, visibility, and audibility. It’s important for people to feel like they can all contribute to a team or to a meeting in a comfortable manner, and having an office space that allows this can only improve moods, productivity and the sharing of ideas.
This isn’t to say that you should sacrifice individual needs in the process; sometimes people need to be able to hear themselves think as much as they need to hear others. Having designated quiet spaces, team spaces and assembly spaces is a good, harmonious approach to designing an office geared towards reflecting Agile work practices!
Find your balance based on your office set-up, the type of work and meetings you do within the company and the feedback you might already have received to craft your productive office of the future. What will you do first to spark creativity and set your office into one of the future?