Simply stated, an agile office is an efficiently-designed, flexible office, offering employees a variety of seating and work style options. Designed to increase productivity, foster collaboration, and spur creativity, the agile office blends open floor plan concepts with designated private areas, as well as smaller social spaces. This ever popular hybrid design takes into consideration the wide-ranging needs of the multigenerational workforce, providing them with opportunities to carry out tasks in a work space that best suits them. However, it goes beyond the physical built environment. The agile office encompasses the psychological aspects of work; that is, how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It shifts us from a building-centric design philosophy to a people-centric approach, emphasizing employee health and well-being. Not only does it entail creating a highly-functional space, but it also celebrates attractively pleasing places attuned to the five senses.
In essence, the agile office is about influencing behavior, addressing individual needs, and improving the way people work. It’s a response to the technology-driven, mobile-forward, modern workplace, focused on empowering employees to work where they want, how they want, and when they want.
What features make up an agile office? To be a balanced office, the workplace needs to make use of collaborative, community-oriented spaces as well as private areas. Additionally, the agile office needs to lead with a human-centric design, focused on employee physical and psychological wellbeing. It’s not enough for an agile office to function efficiently, it also must perform effectively. In order to optimize workplace efficacy, the agile office should contain a mix of the these five components: 1. Open Areas, 2. Quiet Zones, 3. Meeting Rooms, 4. Community Centers, and 5. Utility Rooms
Best Practices on Transitioning into a Balanced Workplace
To help ease your company’s transition into a balanced workplace, we’ve compiled best practices and references to case studies to simplify your process.
Designed to increase collaboration and employee interaction, these spaces are the backbone of an agile office design. They offer endless seating options and cater to a multigenerational staff by seating people near each other, regardless of rank, experience or department.
These enclosed rooms accommodate multiple people and offer a place for planned or impromptu meetings. Designed to bring people together, these rooms are where ideas are shared, partnerships solidified, and new ideas conceived and developed.
The agile office allows for the social aspect of work. These spaces encourage employees to get away from their desks, to ponder over a cup a coffee, or ruminate while grabbing a bite to eat beyond the lunch hour. Furthermore, they encourage impromptu employee interaction and offer a place of respite from intense work and the everyday routine.
A staple in any office configuration: utility rooms. Utility rooms are the glue that hold an office together. They provide the essentials, allowing facilities to maintain everyday functions.
The agile office goes beyond the functional layout and dedicated work areas of an office environment. It encompasses the entire look and feel of a space. While the layout sets the framework, the design elements and aesthetics create ambiance and character. In general, a modern-day office takes into consideration a design concept, furniture choice, lighting, and acoustics.
Once you’ve determined the office framework and how much space will be used as an open plan, private, and communal area, the design concept will further showcase your narrative. Two popular concepts in office design are resimercial and corportality — designing spaces to reflect either a residential space or a hotel property. Another concept gaining traction is biophilia. That is, designing an office to reconnect employees to nature by using passive systems and elements, such as daylighting and natural ventilation, living plants, organic forms, and natural materials. The concept will guide design choices including color and material palette, forms and structures, furniture silhouettes, and lighting choices.
After the concept is defined and the backdrop confirmed (colors, materials and circulation), the next step is selecting furniture to bring the narrative to life. Think of furniture in two categories — work stations (desks and chairs) and ancillary furniture (couches and accessory pieces). Your style goal, be it traditional, playful, or modern, will dictate color selection and forms. Furniture is the key to appropriately expressing your design intent.
Good lighting is essential for a well-designed office. Lighting is one of the most important elements when designing for ergonomics. Drab lighting that causes eye strain can lower productivity, while good lighting, be it natural daylighting or well-lit spaces, can increase productivity. Additionally, lighting is an important design element. Lounge rooms with ambient lighting can create a warmer, cozier place, more conducive to sharing and intimate knowledge gathering. Reception areas and lobbies that fold in artistic lighting, such as neon-lit backdrops or LED-infused reception desks, can make a statement, helping to emote brand image. When approaching an agile office design project, make lighting an integral part of your strategy.
Sound is just as important as sight. Employees need to focus and time “to hear themselves think”. When designing an agile office consider an acoustic plan to get the most out of your design. Acoustic ceiling panels can absorb overall noise. Wrap-around panels in attractive colors and finishes, not only create a sound barrier at individual work stations, but also add an element of decor. Dropped ceilings, strategically placed, can help muffle sound and create an interesting design element while stylistically defining work areas and guiding you through the space.
The benefits of the agile office are numerous. This concept delivers unmatched, flexible functionality, designed to optimize space and employee comfort. Agile offices can positively impact how employees feel about their work and improve how they work together. Moreover, it is a platform to express corporate culture and an opportunity to communicate your company’s values and mission to prospective employees and clients.
The agile office gives designers the ability to turn underutilized work areas into flourishing pockets of innovation. By putting the emphasis on quality over quantity of square footage, agile office designers are able to optimize the workplace, putting every square inch to good use.
In this design-driven, health-conscious world, office environments that integrate wellness, aesthetics and mobility, are more likely to improve employee satisfaction, which in turn, can increase productivity. Moreover, by taking a people-centric approach and designing for how an employee best works, can also help with productivity. Like a well-oiled machine, a well-designed office will run more smoothly.
An office design has a big impact on how coworkers engage with each other and share information. Creating spaces to spur communication can pave the path for better teamwork. Having designated areas for teams will inevitably bring them together, giving them ample opportunity to share ideas and brainstorm innovative client solutions.
Your office is a living billboard for your brand. It is the foundation of corporate culture as it sets the tone for what your company values. Color, form, seating plans, circulation — all these elements convey your image. When used in harmony with your brand standards, you can successfully tell your company’s story.
In order to grab the attention of the best and brightest, companies need to present a place that speaks to their employees. A well-designed office is no longer an office perk; it is the baseline. It is the first introduction of your company culture. If an employee can see themself at your office for eight to ten hours a day, they’re more likely to accept a position. An agile office design gives you an opportunity to appeal to a broad base, offering something for everyone while still staying true to you brand.