5 common agile design fails to avoid in your office fit out project

Recently, our research report found that 71% of businesses were considering changing to flexible or agile working practices following COVID-19. Going agile in particular not only means changing the way a company works, but its culture, and importantly, its office. However, in order to be successful, an agile office has to be designed well, and serve its intended purpose. This can be difficult to achieve if your business is new to agile working.

That’s why we’ve outlined 5 common agile design “fails” to avoid in your office project, and how you can avoid them to create an agile office that works for you. 

1) All out in the open, with a one-size-fits-all approach

In recent years, there has been much speculation about whether or not the open office actually works; including this somewhat infamous Harvard Business Review article that found employees didn’t actually like them (though this is subjective, of course). Open offices are commonly criticised for having a lack of private space, overcrowding and constant distraction that makes it hard to work.

And these criticisms are valid.

Too often, businesses adopt an open office without considering how the space will work for their employees. Open offices are great, but only when staff have access to private areas, as well as the space to move around freely. Truly agile spaces offer staff the choice to move between different working areas where they feel they can perform best, and encourage them to work more openly and efficiently, without the fear of management watching their every move.

In an agile office fit out, you should focus on creating multiple working zones that suit the needs of every user – from extroverted, mobile workers who love being able to move freely, to those more introverted who prefer their own space to do quiet, focused work. Placing multiple desks in an open area and hoping for collaboration doesn’t work – you must take into consideration the different ways of working when designing your workspace. 

This doesn’t have to cost more either – often you’ll find that by adopting an agile way of working, you can actually better utilise your budget. To discuss your budget, business needs, or to learn if an agile office fit-out is right for you, speak to one of our experts today.

2) Aesthetics over comfort and wellbeing

Sometimes, businesses are drawn in by the fresh, modern working approach agile offers them, and with it comes ambitious design that looks great, but doesn’t actually serve its purpose.

An example of this is the increasingly popular trend of industrialising the office environment. The “modern” design trends such as exposed brick, open ceilings and unpainted fixtures and fittings are everywhere. When done right, this can be a great aesthetic that matches company brand perfectly, but when done badly, it can lead to your office feeling cold, dull and devoid of personality. These offices can sometimes feel unwelcoming, which could lead to more employees opting to work from home, or elsewhere. To avoid this, your office needs to be inviting yet functional – it should be modern and forward-thinking, but not at the expense of comfort.

Additionally, more and more businesses are doing away with desks and chairs and replacing them with more casual seating. Again, while this may look good, it could be compromising the wellbeing of your workers. While agile offices should have these different options for seating, it’s not recommended that employees sit this way throughout their day – which is why agile stresses the importance of having separate areas for different kinds of work, and not prioritising aesthetically pleasing design over employee wellbeing. 

3) Forgetting acoustics

If there’s one thing many of us will agree on, it’s that it can be almost impossible to get any work done in an overly noisy environment. A survey conducted by Interface found that the majority (69%) of global employees’ concentration levels, productivity and creativity were affected negatively by noise in the office. 

Yet even with these findings, acoustics and managing noise levels is something that is often overlooked when doing an office fit out – which is a huge mistake.

In an agile office where employees are encouraged to move around the environment as they please, you need to take into account acoustics in each different workspace. By using materials that reduce noise, you can make a huge difference in how focused employees are at work – from sound-proofing meeting rooms to ensuring that quiet spaces are actually quiet.

When it comes to acoustics, the key is finding balance – just as some employees may want silence when focusing, on the whole many don’t want to feel “shushed” by their employers. To truly embrace an agile work environment, places for both social interaction and solitude are required. 

Finding this balance is a specialism of ours, and we helped Visualsoft improve their sound control situation without compromising the social aspects of their office – check it out here

4) Badly implemented technology

At the heart of every great agile office is technology; from having the means to use portable devices and collaboration tools, to managing office occupancy and enforcing safe and hygienic working practices. However, sometimes, businesses are attracted by new, innovative technology, but don’t have the means necessary to implement it properly.

For example, lots of businesses use portable tech devices (a staple of agile working), yet their offices aren’t set up to accommodate their use. In order to utilise this technology properly, you need to think practically. Employees should be able to access power, data ports and WiFi should be completely available no matter where they are in the office.

Additionally, employees should receive proper training on how to use new technologies – otherwise you risk implementing lots of impressive tech, only for no one to actually use it. 

5) Creating space that isn’t suitable for work

Ping pong tables, an in-house bar, a water feature – these spaces certainly invite intrigue and conversation, but are they really a necessity for your office?

While these features can be a nice addition in the short term, quite often they become an annoyance to employees in the long run. However, this isn’t to say your employees shouldn’t have anywhere to relax and separate themselves from their work. 

You should have recreational, or breakout areas in your office, but they need to be thought out carefully. Instead of being an annoyance or source of distraction, recreational areas, or “breakout” spaces in agile offices should be places where employees can unwind and return to work feeling fresh and productive. A rising trend for these types of spaces is resimercial design, which creates a sense of homely comfort in the office, and revamp tired break rooms into modern, cosy coffee shop-esque spaces. 

The recreational space in an agile office should be a source of enjoyment, not frustration – so be sure to think about where you situate your “chill out” areas to ensure employees who aren’t using them won’t be distracted.

How to avoid these agile design mistakes:

These mistakes are common, but many can be avoided by doing these 3 simple things.

  • Listen to your employees

While this seems fairly obvious, it’s surprising how many businesses don’t ask for input from employees when doing an office fit-out; or, if they do, they only ask those at executive level, and don’t reach out for the opinions of general employees. Listen to them. Particularly if you’re looking to switch to an agile way of working, employee input and feedback is vital to ensuring its success. After all, adopting agile isn’t simply designing a new office, it involves a complete change in mindset and company culture.

  • Don’t follow every trend

Too often, businesses get caught up in the fancy aesthetics and features large enterprise-level offices have – don’t do this. What works for one business won’t necessarily translate into your business and culture; instead, focus on what you want your office environment to achieve, not just what you want it to look like.

  • Prioritise wellbeing

It can’t be stressed enough the negative impact a badly designed office can have on employees and their health. Even seemingly simple things such as having natural light, greenery and clean, fresh air in the office can revitalise the space completely, and positively impact employee satisfaction.

Switching to an agile office layout can be a challenge, but luckily here at Dale – we can help. We specialise in creating agile workspaces for businesses wanting to make a change, as well as helping business owners get their employees using the space to its fullest potential after the fit-out is done.

To discuss your business needs, or learn if an agile office fit-out is right for you, speak to one of our experts today.

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