We wouldn’t be doing any of this at all if there wasn’t a financial incentive. We have never resolved executive space – with their teams, together, open or enclosed, access or security, openness or confidentiality. Change is something the staff do, leaders need the old certainties of enough space to practice putting, to host terrifying meetings at a very shiny table for which you need a coaster, and for pictures of the family and pets.The beauty of the agile workplace for the bean counters is that, as we explored previously, it has a natty logic, and a dose of spirit. If by remarkable example you do see a CEO sitting in an open workspace it is usually amidst a sea of empty desk – because who wants to sit next to a CEO?The promise of collaboration, wellbeing and an environment for innovation and creativity and all the other vacuous BS-bingo ideas are just the window dressing on the CFO’s desire to save money.You can be forgiven for not believing the idea that cost reduction is not a business strategy, because this is where it plays out.
So, it was that at the in March 2018 I decided to present a contrary view, corralling all the arguments I’ve heard or had levelled at me over the years to demonstrate through rejecting the idea how robust an approach needs to be to successfully deliver an agile workplace. Better still, to get ahead of them in creating the compelling vision, the ‘WHY? Otherwise you’ll be loading in the additional desks on day two, cattle-prodding the beachtowellers, issuing policies, ASBOs and dictates, irritating everyone in the process, and shortly afterwards booking yourself into the rehab clinic. It’s theoretical pants It has balance and poise, a lyrical tone, appearing as it does to take one dismal extreme (the isolation and hierarchical symbolism of private offices) and another equally dismal extreme (fully open-plan degrading battery-farm host-desking) and find a middle ground at the apex, a bit of each and a lot of something else too, with a whimsical freedom to determine what is best for you at any point in time. Workplace consultants and designers simply talking about it.
‘Change management’ therefore ends up in the panicked attempt to panel-beat actual people into the theoretical ideal.
Yet we’re never going to be like that, and our overriding need to construct patterns of habit and familiarity, to create the mental space we need to do our job will forever outweigh our curiosity to experiment and change our scenery and company with any degree of frequency.
The ‘agile workplace’ is interchangeable with the clumsy yet more self-explanatory ‘activity based workplace’ that preceded it, first appearing in a paper 35 years ago.
We provide a range of worksettings to suit the varying specific activity undertaken during the day (the optimum number varying by industry, organisation and rational restraint of the strategist/designer), and we allow people to move between them during the day, with a degree of agility (getting up and moving around, usually).